I am going to attempt three things with this post: First, I am trying to keep on schedule with the Dale/David project after yesterday's unfortunate lapse. Second, I found a couple more drinks (the French 75 and Cafe Brulot) that I think belong in this quick wrap-up of New Orleans cocktails that I have been working on in the context of Dale's book. Third, I discovered that this month's Mixology Monday theme is New Orleans cocktails--cocktails from New Orleans, cocktails inspired by New Orleans, or even cocktails that you quaffed in New Orleans. I will be touching on all of these facets in this post, which, for the record, and in typical form, is taking me so long that I hope I don't get denied participation privileges by the MxMo moderator. It is after midnight, I know, but it is also still Monday night in that I am still awake from Monday...does that count? Assuming for the moment that it does, here goes my first attempted participation in Mixology Monday, the world's foremost online monthly cocktail party!
The French 75: Conflict, Conundrum, Compromise
The French 75 does not necessarily originate in New Orleans but seems tied there because of the French 75 Bar at Arnaud's, which has a long association with this drink. Some legends tell that the drink was invented by Arnaud himself; regardless of who invented it, the drink was named after the French 75 cannon which was used extensively during WW I.
In The New Orleans Restaurant Cookbook (1967) Deirdre Stanforth specifies this recipe:
Arnaud's French 75
Dash lemon juice
1 oz gin
1/2 oz Cointreau
Shake lemon juice, gin, and cointreau with ice, strain into a champagne glass, and top with champagne and a twist of lemon peel
Anyone who has stopped by that bar in recent years may be surprised to see gin make an appearance. Just recently during Tales of the Cocktail my friend Paula was at the bar and ordered a French 75 "the traditional way", meaning with gin. She was admonished by the barman who told her something to the effect of "we cannot put English gin in our French Champagne." When we went there the next day, a different bartender told us that he didn't like to talk about drinks, he just liked to make them, and would make whatever the customer wanted. We had it the way they serve it, with Cognac and I believe some type of orange liqueur.
Gary Regan writes in Joy of Mixology that the French 75 invites controversy over not just the brandy/gin base but also whether to use lemon or lime juice. I have not found a recipe yet that suggests lime. His recipe calls for gin and lemon juice, over crushed ice, which begs another question--whether to serve the drink up or on ice.
Regan cites Harry Cradock's Savoy (1930) as the earliest printed reference to this drink. Cradock outlines a traditional version with gin and lemon juice, served over cracked ice, and notes that the drink, like its namesake, I suppose, "Hits with precision." Regan attributes the Cognac version to David Embry, whose Fine Art of Mixing Drinks is finally being reprinted by Mud Puddle Books.
According to Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh, the French 75 is made with gin, served up in a Champagne flute. The Cognac version is called a French 125. I have read that a vodka version is the French 76, though I don't recall where. Chris McMillan, in his series on New Orleans cocktails, makes the French 75 with gin and strains it into a Champagne flute.
Since this is the Dale/David project, I should discuss DDG's version: Brandy, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Champagne; shaken and strained over ice. In the book Dale doesn't discuss this drink as he does others, so one can only speculate as to the reasoning behind his choosing brandy over gin. I made this version and then made several other of the more traditional variety (what else was I supposed to do with this open bottle of Champagne?) Dale's version is a tasty cocktail but he seems to be outnumbered by his colleagues who favor a gin-based drink.
Taking all of this into consideration, I decided that I would do my meager part to settle the score, and created this cocktail of compromise:
The French Détente
1 oz. Cognac
1 oz. Gin
1 oz. Lemon juice
3/4 oz. Simple syrup
Shake all with ice and strain into a chilled Champagne flute; top with Champagne.