Drink of the Week: The French 75

Image ALT text goes here.The French 75 does not refer to the number of pounds Gerard Depardieu could stand to lose. No, it refers to a really  marvelous and relatively simple classic presumably imbibed in massive quantities by Ernest, F. Scott, Pablo, Gertrude and all those other people Woody Allen fantasizes about hanging out with.

The drink itself is named after a rapid firing cannon, the first truly modern piece of field artillery, say the Wikipedians. As for the cocktail, it “hits with remarkable precision” according to The Savoy Cocktail Book. I have to say I agree.

Reportedly created circa 1915 at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris by Harry himself, the French 75 rarely misfires. It’s delicate, friendly, and sophisticated all at the same time. The Lost Generation sure could find their way to a good mixed drink.

The French 75

1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons superfine sugar or 1/2 ounce simple syrup
Champagne/sparkling white wine
1 lemon twist (garnish)

Combine the gin, juice, and sugar or syrup in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a champagne glass. Top off with roughly 2-3 ounces of the dry sparkling white wine of your choice. Add your lemon twist and toast the early/mid 20th century author, poet, or painter of your choice.

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First of all, I should add that this week’s drink represents a return engagement for the Yellow Tail Sparkling White Wine featured in last week’s beverage, the Capone. I am not a wasteful cocktail blogger and, as I still had half a bottle of not precisely champagne left and those little stoppers things actually work okay, I decided to try another sparkling white wine based cocktail. And, while I admit that Australia is a very long way from the Champagne region of France, any brut (dry) white fizzy wine should work okay here. The Yellow Tail worked pretty brilliantly, in fact, and I feel no need to rename this version of the drink after something Australian.

The French 75 is one of those drinks where there is a great deal of variation from recipe to recipe and experimentation is welcome. My favorite version of the drink was the one featured above, but I also enjoyed a couple of variations I tried out. One, maligned somewhat elsewhere, used Cointreau in place of sugar for a somewhat boozier, orangey-er concoction; it wasn’t quite as deliciously delicate as the version above, but was still a very nice drink of its own that many may prefer.  I also experimented with dispensing with the sugar and using sweetened Hayman’s Old Tom Gin in place of my Beefeater. The result was drier but still very, very light and enjoyable.

The trick, for  me, is keeping the lemon juice under control. Some recipes call for as much as a whole ounce of lemon juice and more sugar. To that, mates, I say “non.”

  

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Drink of the Week: The Capone

Image ALT text goes here.I’m not sure if it’s a good omen that the first DOTW of 2013 is celebrating Al Capone. Especially considering what we’re all about here, we might be prone to forgive the bootlegging and the gambling the man was involved with, but his probable involvement in mass murder is something we have to come down a bit harder on here at DOTW Central. On the other hand, it appears he had good taste in rye whiskey.

This week’s drink was suggested to me by a mysterious — though, I’m sure, entirely law-abiding — benefactor who was kind enough to send me a bottle of what we are told was the real original Scarface’s favorite whiskey and “the good stuff” well-heeled folks might have enjoyed at a real Chicago speakeasy during prohibition days. Made in nearby Iowa, Templeton Rye alleges itself to be a recreation of what my long-deceased reprobate Great Uncle Ben might have personally swilled at certain Chi-town establishments.

I have no idea whether or not that’s true, but I do know that this is some very good rye whiskey. A bit less peppery and less reminiscent of the stuff I eat with yellow mustard and pastrami than other ryes, it nevertheless sports a delightful potpourri of flavors with a bit more bourbon-esque sweetness than is usual. The fact that it’s 80 proof probably helps allow for a bit more gentleness than in your bonded 100 proof ryes.

As for the cocktail the Templeton people have created in the name of Al Capone, it’s much nicer than the man most people assume was behind the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre must have been.

The Capone

2 ounces Templeton Rye Whiskey
1 ounce champagne (i.e., sparkling white wine)
3/4 ounce Grand Marnier
1 dash bitters
Lemon twist (crucial garnish)

This is a pretty easy one. Combine your liquids in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass with plenty of ice. Stir vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Rim the glass with a very thin slice of lemon peel (none of the white stuff) and “twist” it over the drink to express the lemon oils into the drink. (This is actually standard practice with a twist of lemon, but I’m going into detail because it’s more important than usual.) Toast whomever you like when you sip this, but do me a favor and consider making it something or someone other than Mr. Capone. I’m going out on a limb here and expressing my vehement opposition to organized crime.

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Very, very observant readers might note here that I’m going against my usual practice and actually suggesting you use only Templeton Rye in making this particular drink. Far be it from me to curtail experimentation, but I have to say that I actually tried this drink first with a different brand of rye, a fun-size bottle of Korbel I happened upon, and Cointreau in lieu of Grand Marnier. It was nasty.

Here’s where I have to thank my benefactors again who went well above and beyond the call of duty and, in response to some of my habitual whining, actually sent me some Grand Marnier (which is very tasty but not cheap, hence my whining) as well as some very quaffable Yellow Tail Sparkling White Wine. Sure, Australia is a long way from the Champagne region of France, but it did just fine.

While the Capone turned out very nicely using the more or less originally specified ingredients, there is some wiggle room here as far as your choice of bitters goes. Your standard classic Angostura works just fine here, but there was a slight aftertaste of the wrong kind of bitterness I wasn’t overly fond of. Using the kinder, gentler Peychaud’s bitters yielded a nice enough result, however. I also had decent luck with Regan’s Orange Bitters, which I think worked nicely with the Grand Marnier.

Still, for all of that, I’m so taken with Templeton Rye, it’s reputed evil origins notwithstanding, that I’m expecting even better results when I try it in something where it can really stand out on it’s own. I’ll be having that Templeton Old Fashioned I think. Right…about…now.

  

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