Why It Works
- The usual gin is changed up for rum, which gives the drink a warm vanilla note.
- Swapping lemon for lime adds to the tropical profile.
- Orange curaçao and bitters balance it out.
I have great neighbors. This is important, since our ceilings are their floors, and our garage is their garage. But it's also important because there's no one more convenient to have a drink with than the people who share an address with you. As long as you like them, and, like I said, I'm lucky in the neighbor department; I like mine a lot.
I showed up at a recent gathering upstairs with a few jelly jars of various concoctions, plus a bottle of cheapish sparkling wine. There was some ooh-ing and ahh-ing as I unveiled the goods. "Pat loves French 75s!" exclaimed my neighbor Amanda, referring to her husband.
"Perfect!" I answered. "But these aren't French 75s..."
Before Pat's eager grin could shrink, I continued: "In some ways, though, pretty much all sparkling cocktails are French 75s."
The French 75, if you'll recall, is a refreshing combination of sparkling wine, gin or cognac, lemon, and sugar. It's bright and tart, thanks to the wine and the lemon; potent, thanks to the spirit; and just sweet enough from the sugar. It's one of those cocktails that everyone should know. And, while the French 75 is amazing when made with true Champagne, I honestly never make it that way. Any dry or dryish sparkling wine that you'd be willing to drink on its own will do.
As with many classics, the original recipe is a template that welcomes experimentation. Bartenders have been creating their own spins on it for years, and even if the good ol' 75 isn't called out by name, when you get down to the bones of many sparkling drinks, you're often looking at a riff on the traditional formula: fizzy and tart, plus a little strong and sweet.
I've been making quite a few variations these days, and have assembled four that are particularly tasty and ideal for winter entertaining. A tart, spice-infused cordial, fresh grapefruit juice, and a top-off of dry Cava make this cranberry sparkler perfect for the holidays. Swapping sparkling wine with grapefruit radler gives this Salzburg 75 cocktail a perfect balance of sweet and tart. Sparkling Lambrusco colors this amaro-spiked variation a deep claret red. Time to invite the neighbors down!
Created by Jesse Cyr of Rob Roy in Seattle, the Silver Daisy is a French 75 in tropical garb: tart and citrusy, with a hint of spice from Angostura bitters. Lightly aged rum (look for a bottle marked "5-year aged," such as Plantation or El Dorado) adds a vanilla undercurrent that's a nice change-up from the classic gin. Rather than lemon, you'll squeeze in lime and add a little orange curaçao to temper the acidity. If you don't have a beach vacation planned this winter, at least you'll have this little escape.
How to Make a French 75
1/4 ounce (7ml) 2:1 simple syrup (see note)
3/4 ounce (22ml) fresh juice from 1 or 2 limes
1/2 ounce (15ml) orange curaçao
1 1/2 ounces (45ml) lightly aged rum, such as El Dorado 5-Year
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 ounces (60ml) chilled dry sparkling wine
Add simple syrup, lime juice, curaçao, rum, and Angostura to a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 12 seconds. Strain into a Champagne flute and top with sparkling wine.
To make 2:1 simple syrup, combine 1 cup sugar with 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Cool before using. Simple syrup will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 10g||4%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 8g|
|Vitamin C 6mg||32%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|