Since it's my birthday week, I thought that an easy, bubbly cocktail would be perfect for the Cocktail of the Hour re-inauguration. The French 75 is just gin, citrus, sugar and champagne (or prosecco, if you're partial). Despite its simplicity, the drink packs a kick much like its namesake -- an accurate and quick-firing field gun used in World War I. Per cocktail lore, this lovely libation was most likely named by a Parisian bartender around 1915ish, but its roots go back much further. In the 19th century, upper class folks on both sides of the pond drank a mixture of bubbly, citrus, sugar and ice. Dump in a little bit of readily available gin and voila, the French 75.
Other stories indicate that the French 75 was also, in some circles, a brandy drink. The shift away from brandy may have been caused by the wine shortage that also changed the Sazerac's base liquor. Personally, I prefer gin to brandy here -- gin makes the cocktail herbaceous while brandy slightly spices and sweetens it. If I can get my hands on a bottle of Pierre Ferrand 1840, I'll try it again and report back.
It's also possible that a bartender subbed champagne for soda in a Tom Collins as some early versions of the recipe specify that the drink is served over ice. In this version of the French 75's origin story, it's not clear if the substitution was intentional. Regardless, the result was delicious.
Like the daiquiri and gimlet, this cocktail probably existed for decades before it was named, so history buffs and cocktail nerds alike can savor its qualities.
Recipe: 1 oz gin .5 oz lemon juice .5 oz simple syrup
Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin. Shake for 12-18 seconds or until chilled through. Strain into a champagne flute or coupe glass and top with 1 - 2 ounces of champagne.