So, here’s an oddity. Traditionally, the French 75 is a champagne cocktail, made with some simple syrup, gin & champagne, most likely invented by Harry McElhone at his American Bar in Paris in the 1920s. It’s a good drink in itself and very popular.
But today, Mixellany tweeted a recipe culled from the pages of Harry’s own book, the ABC of Mixing Cocktails, for his original ’75 cocktail’, and bizarrely enough, there’s no sign of champagne in this recipe at all. Instead, we have an entirely calvados and gin-based drink, enlivened with a dash of absinthe and some grenadine syrup. But even then, Harry describes the name as being taken from a light field gun, used by the French army in the First World War, traditionally the inspiration for this drink.
The champagne-based recipe then turns up in the Savoy cocktail book, published around five years later. So which one is the correct 75? The answer is probably both, a little like the Derby cocktail I have described in the past; the cocktail was named after a popular horse race, and many bartenders have developed their own drink inspired by the race. The champagne and calvados variants probably developed separately, but at around the same time. The mystery is how the champagne version got attributed to McElhone, when his own book describes the other. Either way, this is a good drink – calvados is an unusual ingredient, being richer and fruitier than cognac or armagnac; the presence of the absinthe adds an unusual aniseed note, and the grenadine gives it a sweetness and elegant pink colour. The flavour is something I’d describe as ‘old-fashioned’, having a combination of fruit and spice, but it’s an intriguing drink overall.
2/3rds calvados (I used a Somerset cider brandy)
1/3rd gin (I used Hendricks here, as it’s lighter, more cucumber notes suited the flavours more)
dashes of absinthe (I used absinthe bitters)
Shake well over ice, then strain into a chilled martini glass. McElhone makes no mention of garnish or bitters, and with the combination of ingredients given, neither are needed.