French 75 base liquor
Garry Regan claims that the original version is made with gin, but acknowledges the cognac variation. Cognac seems more, well, French, but I've heard that the drink was named in New Orleans after a type of military weaponry, so perhaps the Frenchiness of cognac is not evidence that the cocktail should be made with cognac.
Puzzled, I turned to Dale DeGroff. To my surprise, Degroff's answer is: none of the above! Well, sort of. He makes his French 75 with brandy. Now, I do realize that cognac is brandy, but I've never seen a cocktail list with a French 75 that contained any sort of brandy other than cognac.
(Apparently, there is also a lemon/lime debate with respect to this cocktail. It's not much of a decision for me: I'm a lemon man.)
So I put the question to you: When you order a French 75, what do you expect it to contain?
I had my first French 75 at the Ta-Boo on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach ..... wait, I won't tell how many years ago - but it was made with the following which was classic at that time: 1 shot of gin, 1/2 shot of lime juice, 1 tsp. sugar, and champagne to the top in a champagne glass. Lovely! To this day.
Interesting. In addition to the lime, that recipe varies from my favored version in that it uses (granulated or castor?) sugar instead of syrup. Do you take yours with a sugar rim? (Usually I'm not a fan of sugar rims, but my first (great) French 75 (at Noir in Cambridge, MA) had one, and so I'm partial in this case.)
No sugar rim for me. Sometimes the sugar was in the form of a sugar cube in the bottom of the glass much like a champagne cocktail, depending on who was making them that night. It's not a drink I have with any regularity, just when I want something relatively light and sparkley.
Rumours abound surrounding virtually every cocktail's origin. I've never done any research into the subject, but I remember being told as a youngster that a) a "French 75" was named for the powerful "boom" of the French 75mm cannons of the First World War; b) it was Cognac & Champagne -- the drink "hitting you with the force of a French 75!"
Who knows the truth? After all, the Germans had their 88's . . .
I feel like I've seen this particular cocktail made, more often than not, with gin rather than with brandy. We actually did a little taste test at home, using simple syrup, lemon juice, and cava as the "mixers," making up a gin batch and a cognac batch.
Gin batch: Simple, tart, refreshing. About what you'd expect considering the ingredients. The gin (Tanqueray, I think) pretty much disappeared into the mix.
Cognac batch: Complex, flavorful, brownish. A real cocktail, with discernible brandy flavor among the lemony sweetness. Kind of like a slightly less sweet sparkling sidecar, if that makes sense. To me, this was a hands down winner.
I think I've seen French 75s made with calvados and with pear brandy, respectively. It's such a simple, forgiving recipe that I think there's a lot of room for experimentation.