The French 75 is a champagne cocktail named after a 75mm towed field gun developed in 1894-7 by the French military. This direct-fire cannon sported the innovations of a pneumatic recoil absorption system and fixed ammunition (a single case that contained both shell and charge), which allowed a much higher rate of fire than contemporary guns. The French 75 was deployed against the Germans in opening weeks of World War I. It quickly proved itself, and contributed to the development of the entrenched stalemate but was unable (as a direct-fire gun) to break that stagnation. It was fielded as late as 1941 by the United States in the Philippines and by Finland in the Winter War.
Paul Harrington describes the precursor to this cocktail, a bold mix of gin and champagne, as "an anodyne for fear", and suggests it was developed by French artillery corps officers at the front lines. The christening of a champagne cocktail made with gin, lemon juice and simple syrup is attributed to the great mixologist Harry MacElhone, and believed to have been first served around 1925. However, I find that Mr.Harrington's alteration from simple syrup to Cointreau adds a touch more elegance.
Pour over crushed ice and shake.
Strain into a champagne flute.
Fill the flute with champagne, about 5-6 oz.
Garnish, but don't be gauche, with a thin twist of lemon peel.
Any style of Champagne will work with this drink, but I prefer brut to demi-sec. Or even a dry Cava. There is no need to purchase a stunningly expensive bottle. For the gin, I prefer the well-rounded flavors of Bombay Sapphire in this drink, which supports the wine better than a strongly juniper gin. Should you order this drink and the bartender reach for sour mix, rebuke him with a sharp word.
An illustration of the French 75, originally printed in The Chicago Daily News War Book for American Soldiers, Sailors and Marines (The Chicago Daily News Company, 1918, Chicago, IL) is available at <http://freepages.military.rootsweb.com/~worldwarone/WWI/Weapons/>
Photographs, illustrations, and a history of the The Famous French "75" in Detail can be read at <http://www.landships.freeservers.com/french_75.htm>
The Historical Society of Georgia National Guard recently discovered and restorted a French 75. An article about the project is available at <http://www.hsgng.org/pages/french75.htm>
Paul Harrington, Consulting Alchemist to Wired magazine, no longer works the Townhouse in Emeryville and his seminal book on the cocktail renaissance of the 1990s is sadly out of print. However, many of the articles that comprise the book can be found at <http://hotwired.wired.com/cocktail/>, this one is <http://hotwired.wired.com/cocktail/99/12/index3a.html>
I owe Roninspoon a round of these, for at a bar named "Napoleon" this past weekend, I called for this drink, and neither the bartender nor I could recall the recipe.