Welcome back to Speakeasy, where we take a deep dive into a classic drink and give you the history and origins of a drink, the spirits involved, and how to ask for a drink like a pro. Last time we took a sip of the classic Manhattan, today, we’re all about the bubbly French 75.
The History of the French 75
If you’re a regular reader then you already know this: cocktail histories are hazy (as are most things having to do with spirits). The French 75 is no different, attached to many a myth and crazy story. Here goes.
The most persistent myth is that the French 75 was invented by soldiers in World War 1 and is named after the 75mm Howitzer field gun. That gun had a quite a kick, like the cocktail and/or the soldiers served the drink in shells. Seeing as how it’s unlikely soldiers in the trenches had access to champagne, gin, citrus, and sugar… we’re gonna say this story is probably not an accurate description of how it went down.
The cocktail first appears in print (though with varying ingredient lists) in either the 1920s or 1930s, in cocktail books post-Prohibition. However, what most everyone can agree on is that the cocktail was around in some form much earlier than that. It seems that back in the late 1860s Charles Dickens (yeah, that one) would ask for a “Tom gin and champagne cup”.
A champagne cup was a drink enjoyed by gentlemen of a certain rank and was made of sugar, citrus, and champagne. That's a French 75 minus the gin, which Dickens seemed to have added or enjoy it with. That same drink was also said to be the favorite of Kalakaua, the king of Hawaii. Go figure.