I think Harry Craddock summed it up best in his book The Savoy Cocktail Book when he said that this drink “hits with remarkable precision.” I can certainly attest to that, but it is stealth in its strike, somewhat like being hit by a smart bomb dropped from a stealth bomber. When you begin sipping the drink you notice the champagne flavors and a hint of the gin, but not as much as you’d expect given the amount in the drink. A couple sips later (or chugs depending on how much you’re enjoying the drink) it starts to sink in. This is not a drink to be trifled with. But you keep drinking. And do you know why you keep drinking? Because this drink is amazingly delicious. This drink fully redeemed the Champagne cocktail category for me after the poor showing by its namesake.
I tried a few different recipes and found that there seemed to be two schools of thought. The first being that this drink should have a touch of gin in it to complement the Champagne, say an ounce. The other school feels that this drink should indeed hit like the WWI artillery piece its named after. This school advocates one and a half to two ounces of gin. After having tried both I opted for the artillery option. The cocktail with only an ounce of gin is much sweeter and ends up tasting more like a Champagne Tom Collins, which although not bad, certainly is not what this cocktail is all about. Wondrich, it seems, approves of my take. “Most modern recipes lowball the gin; one online compendium cuts it down to 1/4 ounce. For shame.” The final Cocktail Hacker recipe is very similar to Wondrich’s that we started with, but with a touch of extra simple syrup.
Cocktail Hacker French 75
2 oz Gin 1/2 oz Simple Syrup 1/2 oz Lemon Juice 5 oz Brut Champagne
As for the gin, I suggest going with something that has a nice amount of juniper flavor. I’ve been using Plymouth all week and found that it works wonderfully. Although we made a few up last night for Repeal Day with a bottle of Junipero that Sean gave me and that was another step above entirely. I certainly wouldn’t recommend using a lightly flavored gin in this as the flavor of the lemon juice and champagne will walk all over the gin. Were you to do that you might as well sub in vodka instead and make yourself a French 76.
Although I promised to try both the gin and brandy based recipes I just didn’t feel that the brandy and lime option was going to be that good, so I opted out, at least for now. Finally I’ll wrap this week up with another picture. Photographic proof that we at CH headquarters do in fact consume these cocktails, not that you had worried to the contrary.
[NOTE] In the spirit of hacking cocktails and keep the cost down I tried The Barefoot Bubbly Sparkling Chardonay this week in place of champagne for a couple cocktails. Although the wine is good by itself I wouldn’t recommend it as a replacement for champagne in these cocktails. The flavor simply isn’t right. I’ve been using Chandon Brut in tiny bottles and love both the flavor and the serving size. The small bottles allow me to open a bottle for cocktails without having to worry about the rest of the bottle going flat.