French 75

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 July, 2012, 12:00am


'Too much of anything is bad, but too much champagne is just right,' pronounced F. Scott Fitzgerald, although his preferred cocktail was the gin Rickey.

A heavy drinker for most of his adult life, Fitzgerald is said to have favoured gin because he believed it could not be detected on his breath.

He and his wife, Zelda, used to provide guests at their parties with a list of rules. Two of them were: 'Visitors are requested not to break down the doors in search of liquor, even when authorised to do so by the host and hostess', and 'Weekend guests are respectfully notified that invitations to stay until Monday, issued by the host and hostess during the small hours of Sunday morning, must not be taken seriously.' So, you have to wonder why he was bothered about what his breath might tell them.

In any case, he could have had - and may well have enjoyed - the best of both worlds at the New York Bar in Paris, which served a cocktail named the French 75. He, Ernest Hemingway and other members of the 'Lost Generation' were regulars during the 1920s.

The original version of this classic champagne cocktail is believed to have first been mixed at the 5 Rue Daunou hostelry in 1915 by barman and manager Harry MacElhone.

He became the proprietor in 1923 and rechristened it Harry's New York Bar. A Paris institution, it still bears that name and is still owned and managed by his descendants.

The first world war was under way in 1915 in Europe, and the drink - which, depending on who mixes it, can still pack a considerable punch - was named in honour of a highly effective 75mm artillery field gun used by the French army.

In The Savoy Cocktail Book, published in 1930, Harry Craddock wrote the approving note that the cocktail, presumably like the gun, 'hits with remarkable precision'.

The Hong Kong cocktail venue that comes closest to capturing the art deco ambience of that era is the Champagne Bar of the Grand Hyatt, which serves a range of classic champagne cocktails including the Bellini and the Kir Royale.

Champagne Bar manager Edward Bundro says the French 75 is among the most popular orders at the bar, which uses Mo?t & Chandon champagne, although another may be substituted.


15ml fresh lemon juice

15ml Tanqueray gin

15ml sugar syrup champagne

- Combine lemon juice, gin and sugar syrup with ice in a shaker, and shake.

- Strain into a champagne flute, and top up with champagne.