Recipes: The French 75 Is the Quintessential Champagne Cocktail
Beloved for its fun, fizzy and elegant nature, it’s no surprise that the French 75 has long been a mainstream cocktail favorite—both within France and beyond.
Crafted with a base of gin and topped with generous amounts of bubbly Champagne, it’s an easy-drinking libation equally at home at leisurely weekend brunches or as a Parisian-inspired, pre-dinner apéritif.
Here’s everything to know about this world-famous cocktail, from the history behind its name to which gins best help it shine.
You May Also Like: 12 Classic Cocktails Every Cocktail Lover Should Know
What Is a French 75 Cocktail?
The French 75 is a cocktail made with gin, Champagne, lemon juice and simple syrup. The earliest version of the drink can be traced back to Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, a very fitting birthplace for one of the country’s most iconic cocktails.
“It’s also one of the simplest cocktails to make,” says Emanuele Balestra, bar manager at Bar du Fouquet’s at Le Majestic Hotel in Cannes. “Vigorously shake all the ingredients except the Champagne with ice to combine, and chill the ingredients, strain into a Champagne flute and top with Champagne.”
Why Is It Called a French 75?
The French 75—often referred to as the Soixante Quinze in French—gets its name from the famous 75-millimeter gun used during World War I. Chris Struck, a New York-based wine educator and the beverage director at Mediterranean spot Ilili expands on this.
“The drink’s name comes from the fact that it packs such a punch, that its drinker may feel like they are being shot with a French 75-millimeter field cannon,” he explains. Though don’t let its violent roots fool you—the drink is actually quite approachable.
What Does a French 75 Taste Like?
Beloved for its bubbly texture and refreshing nature, the French 75 offers a balance between tart and sweet flavors, thanks to two of its key ingredients of lemon juice and simple syrup. The drink also boasts undertones of juniper, compliments of its base spirit of gin.
How to Make a French 75
Recipe by Jacy Topps
- 1 ½ ounces gin
- ¾ ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- ¾ ounce simple syrup
- 2 ounces Champagne
- Lemon twist, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine gin, simple syrup and lemon juice. Shake vigorously until chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into a flute and top with Champagne. Garnish with lemon twist and enjoy.
What Are Variations on the French 75?
Many French 75 riffs swap out gin for Cognac or brandy, which produces a deeper, more fuller-bodied cocktail, though the bubbly, lemon, and simple syrup keep the drink light on its feet.
“In New Orleans we tend to make our French 75s with brandy as opposed to gin,” reveals Neal Bodenheimer, the managing partner at New Orleans cocktail lounge Cure. Why? Because that was the preference of the iconic Arnaud’s French 75 Bar.
In New York, Michael Beck, beverage director of Union Square Cafe, suggests adding a quarter-ounce of Campari—a suggestion he credits to Phil Ward from Death & Co—for a flavor-packed twist. He describes it as “French 75 meets a Sbagliato.”
You May Also Like: The Negroni Sbagliato Is Blowing Up on TikTok, Here’s Why
Lastly, Struck notes that one of the original versions of the French 75 recipe called for no lemon juice, simple syrup or Champagne. Instead, it subbed in Calvados, absinthe and grenadine to mix with the gin—which he feels sounds like either a great deal of fun or trouble, depending how you think about it.
Which Gin Is Best for a French 75?
James Coleman, bar manager of Le Cavalier, a French brasserie in Wilmington, Delaware, states that reaching for something that is lighter on the juniper side is key.
“The French 75 is a light, effervescent cocktail that should be bright, so you don’t want a strong juniper flavor jumping out,” he says. When making French 75s, Coleman often opts for the easy-to-find Tanqueray 10, though he tends to prefer a cleaner version, such as Plymouth.
Beck finds that using a London Dry gin is best in a French 75. “You really want the freshness to come through, so using a New American gin can muddle that flavor component,” he says, revealing that his current go-to London Dry favorite is Botanist. Gaël Allier, Head Mixologist at Le Royal Monceau – Raffles Paris, reveals that he reaches for Roku Gin. “I personally prefer to use a gin with floral notes, such as Roku, which gives a nice echo to the sharpness of Champagne,” he explains. On the contrary, Allier shares that should one prefer livelier cocktails, that using a gin with strong citrus notes, such as Tanqueray 10 or Hayman’s, would be a better pick.
You May Also Like: 11 of Our Favorite Gins for Every Drinker
Can You Make a French 75 with Vodka?
You can technically make this cocktail using vodka, but the end result will be completely different from a standard French 75. A French 75 that swaps vodka for gin will likely lose complexity and depth, so choose your products with that in mind.
“Vodka is a much more delicate spirit, so it is important not to overpower it with a rich Champagne,” Balestra explains.
Is a French 75 Sweet or Strong?
It’s just a touch sweet! The cocktail’s classic recipe includes simple syrup, which brings a pleasant hint of sugar to the drink’s flavor profile, though its main purpose here is to balance out the tanginess of the citrus.
With regards to strength, some consumers may find the cocktail’s gin base a bit hearty, but in comparison to other classic cocktails—think: the martini, Manhattan, or Negroni—the French 75 is a relatively restrained option.
Last Updated: October 5, 2023