New Year's Eve is for sparkling wine—it's indisputable. Year-end festivities basically demand bubbles. But sparkling cocktails are just as suited to the occasion, and if there's one sparkling cocktail you should know, it's the French 75.
A simple shake of gin, lemon and sugar, topped with a big pour of sparkling wine, this one's an eternal classic—crisp and ultra-refreshing and as drinkable as a glass of Champagne (despite the full-proof spirit hiding in there). Here's why you should get your '75 on this holiday season.
① You Can Convert a Gin Hater
Sure, a gin martini can overwhelm you. (Not that that's a bad thing.) But once you shake gin together with lemon and a little sweetener, and top it with sparkling wine, it's no longer as aggressively pine-y. Some drinkers will claim that gin isn't their thing, but we've never, ever seen someone turn down a French 75.
② You Can Make It in Advance
Here's how to prep 75s for a crowd: Have the lemon-gin base prepared before, then add the sparkling wine and serve. Pro tip: Shaking drinks with ice doesn't just chill them down. It also dilutes the beverage a bit, since the ice melts slightly, and proper dilution is necessary to making a cocktail taste smooth and balanced. So if you're forgoing the shake by pre-batching, add ¼ ounce water per cocktail—not to water it down, just to even it out.
For eight drinks, multiply the below recipe by eight—combine 8 ounces gin, 4 ounces lemon juice, 4 ounces simple syrup and 2 ounces water in a sealable container. Pop that in the fridge, along with a bottle of bubbles. (A bottle is around 25 ounces; eight of these drinks require 24 ounces, so one is perfect.)
When it's party time, pull out the gin-lemon batch, give the whole thing a shake, then pour 2 ounces into each of eight flutes, and top with 3 ounces sparkling wine each. Have some lemon peels already cut, squeeze 'em on top and serve.
(Alternatively, you can stir it all together in a punch bowl with ice, drop in a few lemon wheels, and you’ve got a French 75 punch. The sparkle will diminish a bit in the bowl, but it's still a delicious drink.)
③ You Can Customize to Your Heart's Content
While gin is far more popular today, some cocktail classicists swear by Cognac in a French 75—and that's a gorgeous drink, too, a little richer and weightier but just as crisp and appealing.
Got a liqueur on hand that you love? Add ¼ ounce to the shaker —ginger liqueur gets you a Ginger 75; blackberry creme de mure, a Blackberry 75.
Or get creative with bitters: two dashes of cranberry bitters per drink gets you a super-festive Cranberry 75. For something a little more floral, try lavender bitters; if you’re looking to amp up the citrus, try grapefruit.
If you really like the herbal botanical qualities of gin, dial it up with just a few drops of absinthe, pastis, or an herbal liqueur like Chartreuse.
And if you'd rather stick to a tried-and-true recipe, keep the standard ingredients, but switch out the garnish, adding a few cranberries and a rosemary sprig on top, for an even more festive appearance.
Carey Jones is a New York-based food and travel writer and the author of Brooklyn Bartender: A Modern Guide to Cocktails and Spirits. Follow her on Twitter at @careyjones.
Yield: 1 serving
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: N/A
Total Time: 5 minutes
For the Simple Syrup
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
For the Cocktail
1 ounce gin (or Cognac; see note above)
½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ ounce simple syrup
3 ounces sparkling wine
1. Make the Simple Syrup: In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir the sugar into the water until fully dissolved. Alternatively, pour boiling water over the sugar in a heatproof container, and stir until clear.
2. In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine gin, lemon and simple syrup. Shake until very well-chilled, then pour into a chilled coupe. Top with sparkling wine, and garnish with a long lemon peel.