The art of mixing drinks is a relatively unrewarding one, because most creators of cocktails were forgotten, or simply never known; yet we keep drinking the drinks they created, and find inspiration in them. There are however exceptions to that rule, one of the most important ones being represented by bartender Harry MacElhone, who created many of the cocktails we still drink today. At his bar in Paris, originally known as The New York Bar and later on as Harry’s New York Bar, he created some of the tastiest and most innovative cocktails, to the delight of his customers and posterity. Some of the most famous cocktails created there are the Bloody Mary, the Side Car, The Monkey Gland and the French 75.
Harry’s Bar was frequented by numerous personalities of the time, and it was not uncommon to see people such as Coco Chanel, Ernest Hemingway, Rita Hayworth, Jack Dempsey, Humphrey Bogart and others. Today we’re going to focus on one of the cocktails that Harry created, namely the French 75 cocktail, which is a champagne-based cocktail. The name of the drink is said to have been inspired by its strength and kick, which were given by the particular combination of the ingredients; in this respect, the cocktail was compared with a French 75mm field gun, a very powerful weapon used in the First World War.
Unlike most cocktail’s origins, the French 75 cocktail has both a creator and a date of birth, albeit incomplete. Thus, the drink is said to have been invented in 1915, and other names for it were “Soixante Quinze” or “75 Cocktail”. The name as we know it today was only popularized in America, at the Stork Club. As for the cocktail recipes, there may have been variations like with most cocktails, but we do know that it was first published in 1930 in The Savoy Cocktail Book, but in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David Embury as well. Nevertheless, here are the ingredients as we know them today:
You take a cocktail shaker, fill it with ice, and then pour the gin, simple syrup and lemon juice in it; shake it well, and then strain the resulting mix in a champagne flute which has been previously chilled. Top it off with the Brut Champagne, and garnish with a twist of lemon. Sometimes, bartenders use other garnishes as well, such as fresh raspberries or cherries.