As we head into this Memorial Day weekend, I don’t know about y’all, but I’m getting kinda thirsty! Weather-wise, it’s going to be a mixed bag here in New York, but traditionally this time of year signals the shift from spring to summer. Technically, we still have four weeks of spring to go, but in keeping with the prevailing attitude around here, New York doesn’t give a shit! Pretty much like clockwork, after this holiday weekend, the warm nights start setting in, the streets give birth to the distinct bouquet of garbage, Chinese food and urine , and the slow, familiar trickle of sweat begins its descent from the top of the neck to the lower back. It’s pretty special, you guys. Oh! And those rich, spicy cocktails you were having all winter long? Well, they are starting to change flavors…and bubbles may possibly be involved! BUBBLES!
Bubbly drinks and BBQ may not sound like the most intuitive pairing, but they are pretty much a dream team. The beauty of most classic Champagne cocktails is that they usually have very few ingredients, so they’re fairly easy to make, which is pretty much a requirement for a low maintenance holiday like Memorial Day.
While I could wax poetic on the Aperol Spritz and sing the praises of the gorgeous simplicity of the Kir Royale, the bubbly cocktail that is really having a moment in my life right now is the French 75.
Now, I’m not going to name names, but it came to my attention the other night that two very cosmopolitan girlfriends of mine had never tried a French 75 cocktail. Long story short, they did that night and LURVED them and totally got Bit By a Fox. A few days later, I went to a lovely backyard barbecue and brought some ingredients over to make my version of French 75s, and pretty much introduced everyone there to their new favorite warm weather drink. Boom! Totally Bit!
Now, while this drink is crazy refreshing and super magical and everyone needs to know about it, French 75s should probably come with a warning label. BECAUSE THEY TASTE SO GOOD. And too many can be SO BAD…the next day. The combination of wine and spirits is always a dangerous one but the addition of sugar just adds that little extra special headache-y kick. But don’t let that scare you! Just imbibe responsibly. And don’t be a dum dum, drink plenty of water!
When it comes to classic cocktails, there is always debate surrounding the origin and exact ingredients. This drink supposedly dates back to 1915 in Paris at The New York Bar, but the recipe wasn’t put into print until 1930, when The Savoy Cocktail Book was released. Popular with the American ex-pats in Paris who came of age during World War I, the French 75 then was finally made famous in America at The Stork Club in New York.
The French 75 is traditionally made with: Gin, Champagne, Lemon Juice and Sugar. Sometimes it’s made with Cognac or even Vodka instead of Gin. Sometimes the sugar is powered or superfine or in a syrup form. And sometimes it’s served in a Collins glass with ice or up in a champagne flute, tulip or coupe glass! There are so many variations, it can be crazy making. So just do some experimenting with those ingredients and make the proportions to suit your tastes. YOU are ultimately the authority on what you like. That being said, this is my blog and the recipe below is a variation on what I made at that backyard barbecue a couple of weekends ago. Because it was dope.
Traditionally, the gin, lemon juice and sugar are shaken with ice and then strained into a glass first (sometimes with ice, sometimes not) and then the bubbles top off the drink. I like to make it easy and build the ingredients in the glass itself, preferably a large coupe-style, without ice, assuming all the ingredients are very cold. No shaker, no problem! (Seriously get a shaker, though. We’ll be needing that for future drinks)
BBAF French 75: Yield: 1 drink
3-4 ounces Brut (Dry) Champagne (or dry sparkling wine like Cava or Prosecco)
A few shakes of Rhubarb Bitters (optional)
(To make a simple syrup, combine 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water in a saucepan over low heat until dissolved. Cool to room temperature before using. Stash extra for later!)
Build the first three ingredients in the glass, then top it all off with the bubbly so it mixes. Add a few shakes of Rhubarb Bitters for that last spring hurrah. Voila! Bring on the summer!