A French 75 is a wonderful thing. Fizzy, refreshing, and just boozy enough, it's a cocktail we can get behind. And we're in good company: Papa Hemingway was a fan, and so was Dickens (or so we hear).
But what if we told you there was a way to make this delightful sipper even better? Most French 75 recipes call for gin (London Dry gin to be specific), but Chris Hannah, the bartender at Arnaud's French 75, uses cognac instead — and we can report that it's absolutely delicious.
Which Came First: Gin or Cognac?
It's a boozy conundrum, to be sure! The confusion is this: The first time the French 75 appeared in print (in the 1919 edition of Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails), it called for gin. But the cocktail itself most likely predates this publication date, and many historians and aficionados, Hannah included, believe that the original drink was actually made with cognac.
Later recipes go back and forth — The Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930 says gin; The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks insists on cognac — but eventually gin prevailed as the most common base spirit for the cocktail.
Fun fact: The name for the French 75 comes from the 75-millimeter howitzer, or field gun, used by soldiers in World War I.
Why Cognac Makes for a Better French 75
Regardless of whether the original spirit was cognac or gin, Hannah says that cognac makes for a better, more complete cocktail. And, after trying the eponymous cocktail at Arnaud's French 75 bar in New Orleans' French Quarter, we heartily agree.
Arnaud's French 75
1 1/2 ounces cognac
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon simple syrup
2 3/4 ounces Champagne, chilled
Place the cognac, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker filled with ice and shake just long enough to chill.
Pour into a chilled champagne glass, top with the Champagne, and add the lemon twist.