As the British Royal Flying Corps embarked on their journey to France in August 1914 during the onset of the First World War, they carried some London Gin with them, seeking a taste of home. Anticipating that the French would have tonic to complement their gin, the airmen were in for some major disappointment. The country only had suave gentlemen sipping on delicate glasses of champagne. Disheartened and devoid of options, the British soldiers began adding champagne to their gins to make it more palatable.
In this situation, they innovatively crafted what could arguably be deemed the first cocktail born out of wartime necessity. Dubbed the French 75, its name drew inspiration from the relentless firing of the French 75-millimetre light field guns, a constant barrage disrupting the Corps' attempts at rest. During the war, over 20,000 guns of its kind were manufactured and utilised, firing an astonishing 200 million shells. Capable of unleashing 15 rounds per minute, it earned a reputation as one of the most lethal weapons in the arsenal. As news of the war disseminated in 1914, a French bartender ingeniously crafted an exclusive cocktail inspired by WWI, aptly named "Soixante-Quinze," or Seventy-Five.
The drink's formidable ‘kick’ was likened to the impact of being shelled by these powerful artillery pieces.
The sophisticated cocktail is traditionally concocted with one part gin, three parts champagne, and a blend of lemon juice, along with sugar or simple syrup. Throughout its history, the cocktail's naming and preparation underwent various revisions, maintaining only the consistent feature of including the numerical reference to 75 in its title and the utilisation of gin among its components.
The first version of this cocktail, served in a distinct Nick and Nora glass, included dry gin, grenadine, applejack brandy, and lemon juice. After around seven years, a revised edition was introduced named the "75" Cocktail, composed of dry gin, lemon juice, calvados, and grenadine, served in a different glass. Following this, the recipe was adjusted, replacing lemon juice with absinthe.
In 1927, Judge Jr. crafted a fresh recipe named French 75, incorporating dry gin, champagne, lemon juice, and powdered sugar. The recipe has remained sacrosanct from that point onwards.
The drink’s journey in the U.S. reflects a rich history of mixology. For something that originated within an atmosphere of utmost strife, it’s fascinating how the United States embraced the French 75. The French 75's popularity transcended generations, maintaining its status as a timeless classic. Whether enjoyed in upscale cocktail lounges or casual settings, its delicate balance of flavours continued to dominate the American palate.
Not only the composition, but the French 75’s presentation has also had multiple iterations. The decoration of the cocktail has evolved over time, showcasing its adaptability in various glassware. Initially enjoyed from a coupe glass, the cocktail underwent a transition in the late 1920s, adopting the Collins glass. In more recent decades, particularly since the 1980s, the preferred vessel for serving the French 75 is the elegant champagne flute.
Add the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup to a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a champagne flute.
Top with the sparkling wine.
Garnish with a lemon twist.