The origins of the French 75 cocktail are pretty well buttoned up
First Printed Recipes
We’ve found that Robert Vermeire of London’s Embassy Club is an excellent resource for locating the origins of classic cocktails as he often details who made them and where (and usually his information works out well).
The French 75 is first printed in 1922:
Robert. (1922). Cocktails, how to mix them. London: H. Jenkins.
Fill the shaker half full of broken ice and add:
- 2 dashes of Grenadine
- 1 teaspoonful of Lemon Juice
- 1/6 gill of Calvados
- 2/6 gill of Dry Gin
Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. This cocktail was very well appreciated in Paris during the war. It has been called after the famous light French field gun, and was introduced by Henry of Henry’s bar fame in Paris.”
Notice the recipe isn’t the standard known to bartenders today. The gin and champagne version makes its appearance in a recipe book in 1934 by Patrick Gavin Duffy:
French “75” Cocktail
- 2/3 Gin
- 1/3 Lemon Juice
- 1 Teaspoonful Powdered Sugar
Pour into tall glass containing cracked ice and fill up with champagne. Use glass number 10
It is not Henry. He speaks of Harry MacElhone and Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, a known watering hole for American World War I veterans who remained in Europe after the war ended. This is an understandable environment for a drink named French 75 given that a French 75 was an artillery field gun commonly used in WWI.
Given the time frame, there isn’t a lot of time from the end of WWI to the drink’s appearance in a recipe book, roughly four years, for it to originate much earlier. The French 75 could have gathered quiet momentum in Europe for those four years to its first published appearance in Vermeire’s book.
Addendum: Totally wrong!
After the French 75 Cocktail Spotlight with Douglas Stailey, we at Black Liver Project learned that we got the origins of the French 75 wrong. Our assessment of Robert Vermeire as a source for this kind of information was totally spot on, but we assumed (and you know what you get when you assume…something about an ass, right?) he had used the wrong name. But, no, he knew exactly who he was talking about, a Mr. Henry Tepe at Henry’s Bar in Paris.
As mentioned above we also didn’t know where the champagne came into the picture from the original French 75 made in 1922. Mr. Stailey found that the French 75 had its own prohibition incarnation in American spreakeasies and that’s where the recipe for the current French 75 evolved gaining popularity through a publication by Judge Junior called Here’s How!