CREA Café cocktail corner: The French 75—intoxicating elegance

The French 75 sounds and looks like a snooty cocktail.

It’s often served in a flute glass. And anytime champagne is an ingredient, everyone expects to pay more. They sit up straighter and sip more elegantly from that strange shaped glass.

On the other hand, champagne is fancy name for a kind of sparkling wine from a specific region in France, and the other ingredients are gin, lemon juice and sugar—nothing special. With all the booze and bubbles together, after a couple French 75s on a hot day, elegance goes by the wayside.

In fact, the history of the drink suggests a more common beginning. Some believe its origins are found in a modified version of the Tom Collins, which is gin, lemon juice, sugar and soda. It was served in a regular tall glass, called a highball. The French 75 basically ditches the low rent soda for high society champagne.

The consensus seems to be a seminal cocktail book from the Savoy Hotel in London popularized the drink and it was either invented at a different London bar or somewhere in Paris. Some say the drink was named for the 75mm artillery gun from the First World War. If you’re into cocktails or read these columns, you know by now older classic cocktails have murky histories.

Regardless of who birthed the French 75 or where, it’s considered one of the top classic cocktails, known and served around the world. So, you should add it to your repertoire. Again, recipe proportions vary a bit, so have some fun and try a couple versions on your own (start by cutting the gin to 1.5 oz.). My go to, below:

  • 2 oz. dry gin
  • .75 oz. lemon juice
  • .75 oz. simple syrup
  • 2-3 oz. dry sparkling wine

Combine the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup in a shaker with ice, shake for 20 seconds or so, pour into a decent sized chilled glass, preferably not a champagne flute, then add sparkling wine to taste (I use Prosecco). But go ahead and tell all your friends it’s made with champagne and it’s also a favourite cocktail of a former President/Chair of CREA’s Board of Directors.

Randall had the misfortune of being a bartender in the late 1980s, widely considered Hell in the annals of cocktail history—remember the fuzzy navel, the tequila sunrise and various coconut and blue curacao drinks? Resistance might have been futile against the Borg, but there was no way he was giving in, he kept drinking his Manhattans, Rob Roys and Old Fashioneds, despite almost never serving one at the bar.

As the former Executive Vice-President of Reputation, Randall McCauley helped shape the face of CREA and REALTORS® to the public and the media. Prior to joining CREA, Randall had a colourful career in politics with experience on Parliament Hill working with several Cabinet Ministers and a Prime Minister. He has also overseen Canadian government relations for a pharmaceutical company and was a founding Vice President of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA). When not at work, Randall is a former personal trainer who is almost getting old enough to golf but has a few more years of kiteboarding left before he even looks at a set of clubs.

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