I recently had a cocktail which the restaurant called a "Cocktail 75" - it was delicious, inventive and sophisticated, involving Domaine de Canton & sparkling wine. This prompted me to look up the recipe (and history) of the cocktail which inspired it - the French 75.
Apparently the story about the French 75 as I learned it was that it was invented by an American soldier who served in France during WWI. He learned to love drinking champagne, but felt it didn't have enough kick to it. So he fixed that by adding a shot or two of cognac. The French used a heavy-hitting field artillery piece, a 75mm howitzer and the drink became known by that name.
Whether or not the story is true is actually beside the point. What puzzles me is why some versions of the drink have cognac (yum) and some have gin, which aside from the high alcohol content is nothing like cognac. The gin version sounds more Americanized, which may be neither here nor there.
Which one is correct? If I order a French 75 at a bar, will I get gin or cognac? Or should I specify? And if I'm making the drink at home and I use cognac, do I still need to add the lemon & sugar or is that an addition to make the gin more palatable? Finally, has anyone else ever had the Canton version (which I understand is cognac mixed with ginger extracts)?
Fair enough, but what about this quote from Gourmet way back in 1960:
For some reason, there is debate about whether this cocktail should be made with Cognac or gin. The first published recipe—gin-based—seems to have appeared in The Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930, but 20 years later David Embury wrote, in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, “Gin is sometimes used in place of cognac in this drink, but then, of course, it no longer should be called French.” Embury ignores Champagne’s French origins, not to mention the 75-millimeter cannon for which the drink was named. The drink’s surprising firepower makes its name quite appropriate (and “Model 1897” just doesn’t have the same ring).