Ah, the French 75 — a stunningly elegant cocktail overflowing with bubbly Champagne and just a whisper of a lemony spirit base. It’s beloved worldwide for being subtly strong and has a complicated history that we can reasonably deduce started with World War I’s popular French 75-millimeter gun. According to Difford’s Guide, the earliest known rendition of the cocktail started as a bright red gin and apple brandy drink, much different than the sparkling drink we know today. The drink continued to be served with grenadine until the late 1920’s, when the recipe took on its modern form.
Gather your French 75 ingredients
This cocktail only requires a few easy ingredients: gin, lemon, simple syrup, and sparkling wine. While the drink’s written history involves gin as the base spirit, many cocktail enthusiasts swear by using Cognac in its place to offer a truly French variation and a weightier mouthfeel. Don’t love gin? The Cognac substitution is perfect for a totally different, rich flavor.
Use a simple mix of water and dissolved sugar to make the syrup and a fresh lemon and you’ve got the shaken base of the cocktail. Top up with sparkling wine: Traditionally, a French 75 is made with Champagne, but even cocktail aficionados will tell you that anything from cava to prosecco will do. Grab your favorite or splurge for Champagne and enjoy a batch of easy cocktails.
Shake the base of the cocktail
While it’s traditional for gin to be stirred and not shaken to preserve the delicate flavor, we actually want to slightly dilute and aerate this one. Pour the gin, lemon, and simple syrup into a shaker with a few ice cubes and shake until just chilled, then strain quickly. We don’t want to totally dilute the gin, just shake it up enough to give it an airy body beneath the sparkling wine. Fine strain the base if your lemon is particularly seedy.
Top up with bubbles
Whether you’re using Champagne, prosecco, or cava, top up your flute with sparkling wine and garnish. To match the lemon juice used in the recipe it’s common to garnish the drink with lemon, but feel free to add a deeper citrus flavor with orange or dress it up with herbs. Rosemary and thyme are popular herbs for sparkling cocktails, looking particularly elegant in the tall fluted glass. Want a sparkling holiday drink? Garnish with rosemary and cranberry for a little red-and-green.
Variations on a French 75
The French 75, like the mimosa, is one of the easiest cocktails to riff because of its versatile, light, dry flavor. Besides swapping the gin for Cognac, you can also swap the sparkling wine for cider for a heavier body and sweeter taste. Adding flavor is easy too: Add blackberry liqueur for a blackberry 75 or ginger liqueur for a ginger 75.
Because a French 75 uses sparkling wine that goes flat after opening, it is best to use the bottle all at once. One way to make that easy is to make a batch of French 75s. Simply multiply the recipe by the amount you need –- we recommend multiplying by eight for one bottle –- and add water to dilute in place of ice. If preparing for a crowd, you can also make it a punch the same way, adding the sparkling wine directly to the spirited base.
Serve with brunch or before dinner
If you’re serving a particularly elegant brunch, try swapping your mimosas for French 75s, which pair just as well with French toast and eggs Benedict. For an early evening pairing, try it with melted brie and crackers or homemade shrimp cocktail. Like your bubbles after dinner instead? French 75s pair perfectly with dark chocolate desserts like chocolate cake and truffles.
The French 75 cocktail — it’s gin-infused, it’s citrusy, it’s bubbly, and it’s a tasty drink to sip on.
- ½ ounce lemon juice
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- 1 ounce gin or Cognac
- 4 ounces Champagne or sparkling wine
- 1 lemon twist, for garnish
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour lemon juice, simple syrup, and gin over ice and shake until well chilled, about 15 seconds.
- Strain into a Champagne flute. Top with Champagne or sparkling wine.
- Garnish with lemon twist to serve.