Jeff's Corner

Bon Jour,

Heath Sparkling is all the bubble buzz in the Tasting Room at GCV these days. Excitement is building, and the first allocation (March) has had rave reviews. If you’re a member, sign up soon for May to be sure and get your share.

Too often, we think of Sparkling wine as celebratory and overlook how versatile it is with food and as an aperitif. Here’s a fun story from the Jeff’s Corner Archives, (available for a sizable cash donation) dated 10-24-14:

The other day, I was grazing through one of my many cocktail recipe books when I stumbled on a beverage called “The French 75”. I hadn’t thought of this drink in years, and I quickly went reeling down memory road to the summer of 1979 when Kathy and I were in our courtship phase.

I was bar manager at Meri’s Malibu in Port Aransas, a rocking spot the tourists loved because it was full of “local color” or “colorful locals” depending on your perspective. Meri, the slightly eccentric owner, enjoyed a few French 75’s that summer. I loved her to death, and learned to make this in my sleep.

At first, I thought it was pretty grody, but it’s actually pretty damn good. The recipe follows, and then we’ll take a peak at the history behind this classic cocktail.

2 oz gin
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz simple syrup (equal parts sugar dissolved in water)
5 oz brut Champagne or sparkling wine
1 lemon peel twist

Pour the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup into a shaker glass 2/3 full of ice. Shake well and strain into a flute. Add the Champagne and garnish with the twist.

The origins of the French 75 are obscure, but its name is derived from the fact that the “kick” it delivers was similar to that of the French 75mm field gun made famous during World War I. Created in 1898, it was the first modern artillery weapon, and by 1918 was infamously used to deliver toxic gas shells into the German trenches.

The cocktail may have been created in 1915 in Paris by Harry MacElhone at the New York Bar, which later became the famous Harry’s New York Bar. The drink was later popularized in America at the equally famous Stork Club in New York City.

More romantic legends tell us that British soldiers received a daily ration of gin, and added readily accessible Champagne to sparkle the juniper. Another story, substituting Cognac for Gin, says it was created by a squadron of French and American pilots called the Lafayette Escadrille. They were toasting their fallen comrades with Champagne, but wanted something stronger and added Cognac to the bubbly.

The Gin version of the French 75, and the most classic, was first published in 1930 in ‘The Savoy Cocktail Book”. The recipe with Cognac did not appear until 1948 in “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks”. Both these bar books are extremely collectible.

Bon Soir, mes amis.

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