The French 75 was, as the name suggests, born in France, at the beginning of the First World War. The “75” paid tribute to the 75mm artillery weapon often used by the French military. For Jason Obermeier, beverage manager at RM Champagne Bar in Chicago, the name is an ode both “to the power of the weapon and the potency of the cocktail,” he said.
But when Obelmeier thinks of a French 75, his mind first turns to the iconic Arnaud’s French 75 Bar in New Orleans, a city rich in French history and culture.
The drink has all the sophistication of champagne, with a bit of a punch. Bartenders muddle sugar (or mix simple syrup) into lemon and gin, top with champagne and garnish with a lemon twist. But later versions of the cocktail — including the one served at Arnaud’s and RM Champagne Bar — used cognac instead of gin, since the spirit is named after the town of Cognac, France. The true beauty of this cocktail, though, is how easy it is to make. (The Times-Picayune pulls this version together in 60 seconds.)
When it comes to picking sparkling wines, Obermeier has a few suggestions. Champagne, a name reserved only for bottles made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France, is more elusive, and by extension, more expensive. Prosecco, from Italy, tends to be more sweet. Cava, from Spain, is a more recent addition to popular wine lists in the U.S. Many American winemakers also make their own versions of sparkling wine, from white to red and rosé. On the menu at RM Champagne Bar in Chicago, Obermeier offers six true champagnes and 12 other sparkling wines by the glass; there are 100 others on the bottle list.
While it’s often served as a celebratory beverage, champagne can be a great universal wine to serve with any meal. For something like a roasted ham, go with a brut champagne that’s not too fruity, Obermeier says. For dessert, serve a prosecco or sparkling wine that is sweet, closer to a Riesling.
As with so many spirits, though, it all comes down to what you like, Obermeier says. That’s what you should drink, regardless of what brand or region is “in” or “out.”
The French 75
Courtesy of Jason Obermeier, beverage manager at RM Champagne Bar in Chicago
1.25 oz Remy Martin 1738 cognac (or your favorite type of gin)
0.25 oz fresh lemon juice
0.75 oz simple syrup
Combine all ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake, double strain into champagne flute. Top with champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist.
We’re closing out 2017 with 12 days of cocktails, a series of traditional and unusual holiday drink recipes from bartenders, mixologists and beverage directors across the country. Find them as they’re published here.