Sipping a French 75 reminds us that champagne hasn't always signified celebration but has become one of life's lasting symbols: a drink raised in the hour of hope.
To toast occasions that involve an unknown quantity of fear - such as marriage and war, we mix this cocktail with 5 ounces champagne and 1/4 ounce gin, the spirit that seems to make us smarter. We add 1/4 ounce of both lemon juice and Cointreau for a rounded edge that keeps us from being too reflective.
This luscious cocktail was christened by the French republic, which named it after one of the guns used by the French in World War I. An anodyne for fear, the French 75 - sans lemon and Cointreau - was reputedly sipped by French officers before they engaged in battle. (Enlisted men merely received a shot of rum or pinard.)
Mordis Eskteins, author of Rites of Spring, suggests that this disparity reminded the recruits of their "disposable status," and ultimately contributed to the widespread mutinies of 1917. Fortunately, those enlisted men who survived the war held no grudge against this fine drink and upon returning to their cities and villages, asked for it in their local brasseries.
The Esquire Drink Book of 1956 declares champagne's restorative powers worthy of a million testimonials; its heartening influence on the lonely soul is incalculable. The gin in this cocktail brings a smile to the lips, a gleam to the eyes, and steadiness to the mind.
Sadly, however, the French 75 is as forgotten as the promise that the Great War would put an end to war itself. We request it on occasions that suggest a toast - but a toast to something we haven't quite bought into. This effervescent drink raises us out of the trenches of ennui.
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