vagabond matt welsch cocktail

The Refreshing French 75: Best of Both Worlds

Summertime is finally here, and with it brings lemonade on the back porch or maybe a nice gin and tonic. But what if you could have the best of both worlds? Well, my friends, you can. And it’s called the French 75.

Now, don’t let a cocktail with “French” in the name make you think it’s a tad too foo-foo, nor because it comes served in a champagne glass. Oh no. The French 75 is actually a Prohibition Era cocktail, first developed in 1915, and it’s named after the French 75mm field gun used in the Great World War.

The French 75 is somewhat unique in that it uses champagne as part of the mix, which gives it a very refreshing effervescence — perfect for a hot summer evening. Or day. Or even, shall we say, mid-morning.

The champagne and the simple syrup certainly dull the edges of the gin and make this refreshingly lemony sweat buster entirely too drinkable, which harkens back to the name. Before you know it, you’ll feel like someone shot you, so imbibe with appreciation and maybe alternate with some water.

The French 75 is best served as cold as those winter’s nights we’re all so happy to leave behind, so chill your champagne flute first and make sure to shake with ice until your hand starts to stick to your stainless cocktail shaker.

The recipe I prefer is from Eben Freeman, a bartender at the Tailor Restaurant in New York City.

For one drink you’ll need the following:

1 lemon

3 tablespoons or 1 ½ ounces of gin, I like Tanqueray — but your drink, your choice

1 1/2 tablespoons or ¾ ounces of fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon or ½ ounce of simple syrup

1 cup of ice cubes

¼ cup or 2 ounces of dry sparkling wine, such as brut or spumante, chilled

vagabond matt welsch cocktail

Here’s what you do:

Using a zester or paring knife, slice the peel from the lemon in a long, thin spiral. Hold onto the lemon for another use and set the peel aside. Alternatively, you can cut a very thin wedge out of your lemon and then trim the peel off the meat of the fruit.

In a cocktail shaker, combine the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup. Add ice and shake vigorously for 20 seconds. Strain into chilled champagne flute and top with sparkling wine.

Curl lemon peel around your finger to create a twist at least 6 inches long. Garnish drink with twist and serve immediately.

Let’s dissect this a bit.

First off, I can’t recommend using fresh lemon highly enough. Secondly, while it is often the case to use a lower shelf product in mixed drinks, for this one I would suggest using something that you would be happy to drink straight. The taste of the gin really comes through, because, even though we’re adding simple syrup, lemon juice and sparkling wine, there are no bold flavors that will cover up this very clean cocktail. The sparkling wine, in my opinion, is much less important than the gin — go budget with it, if you prefer.

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If you’ve never made simple syrup, it is indeed, very simple. Using a ratio of 1:1, you simply boil water and sugar, and, once it’s dissolved, let it cool. 

For instance, put half a cup of water and half a cup of white sugar in a small saucepan, bring it up to a boil, stir it to make sure all the sugar is dissolved, and let it cool. It will keep for at least a month in your refrigerator and will make your hummingbirds happy, too!

Now, when it comes to the cocktail shaker, you can rig one up with a glass and saucer or any other container with a lid, but let’s get real. Half the fun of making cocktails is the sound it makes in the shaker! There are many options on Amazon, even though Jeff Bezos doesn’t need your money; I’m unaware of anywhere locally to purchase one.

vagabond matt welsch cocktail
Welsch enjoying his own French 75.

Finally, any vessel will work for your cocktail, but along with the garnish, the presentation is the other half of the fun when you’re making cocktails. After all, you’re educated, sophisticated. You could drink your gin straight from the bottle like any downtown wino, but no! You’re putting your pinky out, you’re a high-class boozehound, goshdarnit! So, grab up some champagne flutes and do this cocktail — and yourself — justice. Enjoy the process of crafting cocktails.

One final word. Enjoy responsibly. We all know that drinking the drink is the third half of the fun, but getting ourselves into trouble negates all the fun we could have had otherwise. The French 75 is such a refreshing, drinkable cocktail, it’s easy to get yourself somewhere you probably don’t want to be.

Be safe, have fun, and let us know what you think of the French 75, a refreshing drink that will hit you like an artillery shell.


Matt Welsch, otherwise known as the “Vagabond Chef” has been fascinated with words for as long as he can remember, and he has enjoyed a good drink almost as long. His search for the perfect drink and tastiest plate to accompany a day full of adventures has led him all over the country and parts of the world. Chef Welsch returned home to the Ohio Valley in 2014, and he opened his first restaurant, Vagabond Kitchen, to share his experiences exploring through the dishes on his menu.