Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Cognac & Other Brandy Cocktails

West 75th

A champagne flute stands on a stark white backdrop. The drink within is layered, with a dark nearly black red floating atop pale orange.
Image: Gage Hospitality Group

Wine is certainly no stranger to being a cocktail ingredient, especially sparkling wines. Notable sparkling wine cocktails include the Champagne Cocktail, the Aperol Spritz and, most relevantly, the French 75. A potent and refreshing combination of gin, bubbles, sugar and lemon, the French 75 is iconic for a reason. One lesser known wine-topped cocktail is the New York Sour, which sees a traditional Whiskey Sour topped with a layer of still red wine. Aside from giving it an iconic layered look, topping with red wine adds additional complexity with its acid, earthiness and tannins.

The West 75th, Torrence O’Haire’s festive fizz at creative American restaurant The Gage in Chicago, is a best-of-both-worlds situation, combining elements from both drinks. However, the most notable change is combining the wine elements of both into one, with the red wine of the New York Sour and the bubbly of the French 75 coming together the only way they could: as a lambrusco. In particular, O’Haire opts for Cleto Chiarli Pruno Nero, but any good quality lambrusco can do the trick, here.

“The two drinks meet in the middle as a Brandy Sour, topped with sparkling red wine,” says O’Haire, who is the beverage director and sommelier for Gage Hospitality Group. “The lambrusco gives the cocktail both bright, fresh sparkle... and fruity richness.” Rather than gin, or the whiskey in a New York Sour, O’Haire opts for Calvados, an apple brandy from Normandy in France. While using a brandy, especially an apple one, might seem odd at first, it has precedence. While most French 75s are made with gin, it’s unclear what the original drink was made with, with plenty of evidence pointing to brandy as the base spirit. Even today many cocktail bars offer both options when putting a French 75 on the menu.

A housemade raspberry syrup brings sweetness to the drink, standing in for the usual simple syrup. The berry qualities help coax out the fruitiness of both the lambrusco and the Calvados without making it overly sweet, while some fresh lemon juice balances it with tartness. Unlike its two parent drinks, the West 75th also gets a few dashes of Angostura bitters, which lend it even more depth of flavor.

Traditionally the drink is served in a champange flute, but one variation is to serve it in a rocks glass over ice. Either way, you’ll want to carefully pour in the lambrusco, optionally over the back of a spoon, in order to get that nice layer of red atop the drink.

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce calvados
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/4 ounce raspberry syrup*
  • 2 dashes Angostura orange bitters
  • 3 ounces Cleto Chiarli Pruno Nero lambrusco, chilled
  • Garnish: lemon twist

Steps

  1. Add all ingredients except the lambrusco into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.

  2. Strain into a champagne flute.

  3. Slowly top with the lambrusco to create a layered effect.

  4. Garnish with a lemon twist.

*Raspberry syrup: Add 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water into small saucepan. Bring mixture to boil, then simmer for 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add 1 cup raspberries, mashing gently. Let mixture steep for 1 hour, then strain out solids. Store in refrigerator up to 1 week.