What's the Right Way to Make a French 75?


No matter the season, you can always find an occasion for festive champagne cocktails—and none are as well known as the French 75.

Supposedly named for the light artillery gun that became a symbol of victory in World War I, the French 75 cocktail has a convoluted history. One of the most widespread myths attached to it is that it was created in the trenches by English soldiers. These mythological soldiers somehow had gin, citrus, sugar, and champagne...but no cups. To celebrate a victory, they improvised by mixing and serving the cocktail in a shell casing from the field gun. As you may have discerned, it's unlikely that there is any truth to this origin story.

The more likely story is that it was invented in the 1910s in a bar in London. Until recently, the French 75 was cited as one of the only cocktails to have been created during Prohibition. But written records indicate that it first appeared in print in the 1919 edition of Harry MacElhone’s Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails. In the publication, MacElhone states that the drink was created in 1915. As the story goes, a bartender took the Tom Collins and substituted champagne for soda.

Although this version had the same ingredients as the modern French 75, there was one main difference: it was served on ice. By the time the recipe reached David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks in 1948, the ice had been removed, starting the modern trend of serving it in a champagne flute. This recipe also called for gin or brandy. One of the prevailing theories on the subject is that brandy was used to make the drink more French. Others call this configuration a French 125.

But its seemingly straightforward appearance in print is deceiving. The French 75 likely existed for centuries before it was given a name. Charles Dickens is known to have asked in 1867 for a Tom gin and champagne cup. As a champagne cup was made of sugar, citrus, and champagne, the addition of gin basically made it a French 75. This combination was popular with upper-class gentleman of that time, and even made its way across the pond (and then another pond), as it’s cited as the favorite drink of Kalakaua, the king of Hawaii.

This simple beverage was likely enjoyed without a name for years before it was stuck with the French 75 moniker. Although this may seem strange, the same thing happened with the old fashioned, the Sazarac, the daiquiri, the gimlet, and quite a number of other classic beverages.

Hit The Lab

French 75
From Henry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book.

1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz lemon juice
Champagne to top
Lemon twist

Measure all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled through. Strain into a champagne flute. Slowly top with champagne, and garnish with a lemon twist.

Charente Royale
From Kevin Diedrich, bar manager of Turnkey in San Francisco.

1 1/2 oz H by Hine cognac
1/2 oz elderflower liqueur
2 dashes absinthe
Sparkling wine to top
Orange twist

Combine all ingredients except sparkling wine in a shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled through. Double strain into a champagne flute and garnish with an orange twist

What's the Right Way to Make a Sazerac?

If you pronounce New Orleans "New Or-leens," or if you can’t get enough of those Big Ass Beers sold on Bourbon Street, you’re probably not actually from New Orleans. But if you’re feeling adventurous and missing the Big Easy, a Sazerac might be just what the doctor ordered. 

‘Tails and Stories

A few hundred years ago, you might have actually gotten a doctor’s order for a Sazerac. One of the drink's origin stories claims that it was invented by New Orleans apothecary Antoine Amedie Peychaud. According to this tale, Mr. Peychaud mixed up the drink with his eponymous bitters and served it in an egg coupe in his shop. 

A more likely origin story states that the drink was invented by a different New Orleans resident (though in the same neighborhood). Around 1850, Sewell T. Taylor sold his bar to Aaron Bird and went into the import business. One of his products happened to be Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils brandy. While Taylor was importing, Bird renamed his bar the Sazerac House and began serving a house cocktail that featured Taylor’s brandy and, as the story goes, bitters made by his neighborhood apothecary, Mr. Peychaud.

In the 1870s and 1880s, Europe's grape crops were decimated by an infestation of American aphids. In just four years, French wine production was cut by 67 percent, and even the most dedicated cognac drinkers switched to whiskey. For New Orleans, that meant switching to rye whiskey that was shipped to the city down the Ohio River and through the Mississippi. Thomas Handy, who owned the Sazerac Bar during that time period, likely switched the drink's main ingredient. This take on the signature cocktail is the one that found its way into the 1908 edition of The World's Drinks and How To Mix Them, with the recipe calling for "good whiskey," not Sazerac cognac. 

The origins of the Sazerac’s name is vague. It’s possible that it was a nod to the fact that it was the bar's house cocktail, but it’s also possible that it’s a reference to the brand of brandy. In those days, “cocktail” referred to a specific alcoholic drink format. As put forth by The Balance and Columbian Repository in 1806, a “cock-tail” is “a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.” If you wanted this type of drink with whiskey in it, you would ask for a Whiskey Cocktail. If you wanted Sazerac brandy (until the aphid plague, at least), you'd ask for a Sazerac cocktail.

Hit the Lab

Sazerac Recipe:

2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
.25 oz simple syrup (or a sugar cube)
2 oz good rye whiskey (use the good stuff)
lemon peel for garnish

Place the sugar cube into an absinthe-rinsed rocks glass. Dash the bitters onto the cube and muddle. Add whiskey and one large ice cube and stir to combine. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Flickr User Janice Waltzer // CC BY 2.0
What’s the Right Way to Make a Caipirinha?
Flickr User Janice Waltzer // CC BY 2.0
Flickr User Janice Waltzer // CC BY 2.0

The Rio Olympics start in just a few weeks, and all eyes are on Brazil. To celebrate, we decided to focus on the country’s most famous cocktail creation: the Caipirinha.

In form, the Caipirinha is pretty much a Brazilian Daiquiri. It’s made from sugar, lime, and cachaça. Cachaça could be considered a cousin to rum, but it is altogether unique. While most rum is made from molasses, cachaça is made from fresh sugarcane juice.

Unlike rum, which can be made anywhere, cachaça can only be made in Brazil. Though it’s often sold unaged, it is usually matured in woods that are native to Brazil, like peanut and balm. As with wine, beer, and whiskey, different kinds of wood affect the product inside differently.

The classifications of cachaça aren’t based on the type of cask in which it’s aged. It can get a bit confusing: Spirit that is not stored in wood or is kept in stainless steel vats before it’s bottled is often called branca (white). But cachaça aged in wood that doesn’t color the liquor may also be labeled as branca. This category goes under several other names, including prata (silver) and clássica (classic).

Cachaça that’s stored or aged in wood is usually labeled as amarela (yellow), in reference to its color. These may also be labeled as ouro (gold). Envelhecida (aged) cachaça, a subtype of amarela, is a bit more involved: it’s considered aged if more than 50 percent of the content of the bottle has been aged for at least a year in a barrel that’s 700 liters or smaller.

Cachaça is the “third most produced distilled drink in the world,” according to Alcohol In Latin America: A Social and Cultural History. Though more than 5000 brands existed in 2008, it was relatively ignored outside of Brazil until the recent resurgence of craft cocktails. In fact, until 2013, it had to be labeled “Brazilian rum” to be imported into the U.S. As a result, it’s often mistaken by many people for being a type of rum.

Unfortunately, we don’t really know anything definite about the origins of the Caipirinha. Like the Mojito and the Old Fashioned, the formula was perhaps first used in folk medicine. Carlos Lima, the executive director of IBRAC (the Brazilian Institute of Cachaça) told Casa e Jardim that a mix of lime, garlic, and honey with a pour of cachaça was probably used in São Paulo around 1918 as a remedy for the Spanish Flu.

As the story goes, someone eventually decided to skip the garlic and honey. Then, to balance the acidity of the lime, sugar was added. Over time, the drink spread into bars, ice entered the equation, and it became the Caipirinha we know today.


Like the Mojito, the classic Caipirinha recipe is quite simple, but it’s also been the subject of many, many variations. We’ve included the International Bartenders Association (IBA) recipe as well as a modern take on the drink.

Modified from the IBA website.

2 ounces Cachaça
1/2 of a lime
1 tablespoon sugar

Muddle lime and sugar in an Old Fashioned glass. Fill with ice and pour cachaça over it. Stir and enjoy.

Prata B. (Puerto Rico Asta Ah Brazil)
Recipe by Luis Ramos, bar manager of Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco.

1 3/4 ounces Avua Prata Cachaça
3/4 ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce pineapple gomme syrup
1/2 ounce Pedro Ximenez sherry
1/4 ounce Punt e Mes
Grated nutmeg, lime zest, lime wheel for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a Collins glass. Add crushed ice and stir until glass frosts. Top glass with grated nutmeg, lime zest, and lime wheel.


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