Born during dark days of World War I, the French 75 was so named because its kick was said to be comparable to that of the French 75mm field gun. But in fact, the cocktail is a perfect study in balance of flavor and texture: It’s tart and citrusy, with a round sweetness and palate-tickling effervescence that works in harmony with cognac (in the original recipe) or a botanical-rich gin (which has come to be the standard). These seven modern versions play off those elements while not straying too far from the fizzy fix that’s become a timeless classic.
Can't make it to any of the bars serving these great French 75 drinks? Try making the South Mint 75 from this list at home.
Bardo head bartender Amanda Britton takes an Asian slant with the South Mint 75, shaking Sutler’s gin, lemongrass syrup, lemon juice and mint leaves. Her concoction is topped with cava and garnished with expressed mint leaves. “I want you to be able to taste every component and know what its purpose in the cocktail is,” she says. “This variation has depth, and the addition of lemongrass kicks up the refreshing factor."
Fans of 1970s sitcoms will appreciate the nod to Larry’s favorite San Diego fern bar in “Three’s Company.” Hayman’s sloe gin, grapefruit juice and JuJube bitters (made with Chinese dates) are shaken, strained into a flute, topped with cava and garnished with a lemon twist. “We love this variation because it has fruit without being sweet,” says MiniBar general manager Jeremy Allen. “The sloe gin gives us this awesome frizzante froth, the color comes out halfway between pink and purple, and the ABV is slightly less than a glass of bubbles.” He recommends drinking it with your pinky out, obviously.
This cocktail from the quaint restaurant housed in a former 19th-century grocery store shows how just one tweak can completely change the character of a drink. The mashup of a French 75 and Champagne Cocktail, it’s made by soaking a sugar cube with Clear Creek pear brandy, topping it with Champagne and garnishing it with a lemon twist. “The result is a bright and light drink that pays homage to both its predecessors,” says La Petite Grocery bar director Jesse Carr, who adds that “a good riff or variation honors the classic while making it different enough to be your own.”
Shawn Stanton, the beverage director for Working Class Outlaws, which runs several concepts in Michigan, wanted to create a version that expands upon the vast variety of gin flavors in the market right now. He selected Hayman’s Old Tom gin, which he describes as botanical-forward with a subtle sweetness. It’s shaken with pear-rosemary syrup and lemon juice, strained into a coupe, topped with prosecco and garnished with a sprinkle of ground cloves and a torched rosemary sprig. “It has the sweetness of a traditional French 75 with a touch more savory flavor from the pear and rosemary.”
Ever since he tried legendary bartender Chris Hannah’s cognac-based version at the French 75 bar at Arnaud’s in NOLA a decade ago, Kimball House beverage director Miles Macquarrie has preferred a brandy base to gin. For this drink, he starts with Camus Ile De Re cognac, which is produced on an island and has a sea air minerality. It’s mixed with clarified lemon juice, sugar and muscadet, carbonated three times and bottled. When it’s poured tableside, it has the appearance and texture of Champagne.
Macchialina head bartender Amy Weidig modernizes the early 20th-century tipple while giving it an Italian spin. Her cocktail (the name translates to “seventy-five”) is on the rocks and built in the glass with Bombay Sapphire gin, lemon, simple syrup, London Essence ginger ale and Wild Sardinia mirto, a liqueur made from myrtle berries. It’s garnished with a lemon wheel and rosemary sprig. “Mirto and ginger ale add complexity and enhance the herbal notes,” says managing partner Jacqueline Pirolo, who oversees the beverage program. “I love the challenge of updating classics while always paying respect to their history.”
The “French 750” menu at Brabo, a lively French-Belgian spot in Old Town, turns the fizzy sip into a communal concoction. Here, pebble ice, lemon wheels and berries are layered in a large absinthe fountain and topped with The Botanist gin, raspberry gomme and Meyer lemon. At the table, a chilled bottle of Aubry Champagne is placed upside down in the fountain, and the drinks are dispensed into four flutes. “We wanted to do something a little more fun than offer the standard brunch Mimosa, says general manager Iain Roberts. “Guests react well when they see the absinthe fountain. Lots of camera phones come out.”