What comes to mind when you think of Valentine’s cocktails? Pink drinks embellished with skewered fruit – a lady cocktail? Or a bottle of the finest French champagne? Perhaps you prefer a more restrained blend, not overly sweet, with a bit of polish? Then the Cognac French 75 is for you because it’s an easy champagne cocktail with a bit of panache.
The Cognac French 75 is my favorite Valentine’s cocktail. Well, to be honest, it’s one of my favorite sippers PERIOD. I had my first (and second, third and fourth) one in New Orleans with my husband, Scott, while celebrating our wedding anniversary. The cognac cocktail looked elegant in a beautiful coupe stem with a steady stream of bubbles rising to the surface, but the taste is what sold me. This isn’t your typical lady cocktail with lots of fruit and sugar. It’s sophisticated. Delicate. Very sip-able.
First, a little history…
There are two well known, if not always agreed on, ways to make a French 75 (aka: soixante-quinze). One involves Cognac, the other, Gin. From what I’ve been able to discern the Gin version is the widely accepted “original” but the Cognac version has the better… and I think... more believable backstory.
The Story Goes…
…that the classic Cognac French 75 dates back to World War I where it was named for the kick it delivered upon imbibing… feeling like you’d been hit with a French 75 field gun (the size of the 75 mm artillery in the French soldier’s weapon). This ain’t no “lady cocktail.”
I can attest to the kick. One Cognac French 75 will give you a pleasant euphoria, two brings a deeper buzz… One and a half drinks suits me… best to not go past two.
Let’s Start With The Basics…
As with most cocktails, this one includes simple syrup.
What Is Simple Syrup?
- Simple syrup is a combination of equal parts sugar and water.
- You can purchase simple syrup at the liquor store or even the grocery store. But don’t.
- It’s so much more economical to make your own at home (in about 3 minutes).
- To make simple syrup: Combine 1:1 ratio of sugar and water in a pan and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Cool to room temperature and store in a clean jar with a lid.
- It doesn’t go bad. Keep it in a sealed jar in the fridge or in your liquor cabinet. Doesn’t matter. It’ll be ready when you are!
For this cognac cocktail, I chose a nice VSOP (meaning it’s been barrel aged for 2-6 years, save the XO for sipping straight). This one was a moderately priced bottle, around $31.
How To Make Cognac French 75
- Add ice to a cocktail shaker (I prefer the type with the strainer embedded in the lid, but you can also use those fancy ones with the slinky wire and a traditional boston shaker).
- Simple syrup, lemon juice and bitters are added to the shaker and chilled with the cognac.
- For the bitters, you can use Angostura, but if you can find Peychaud’s (a New Orleans favorite) or good orange bitters, use them.
- Seal the lid on the shaker and vigorously agitate for 10-15 seconds or until the outside of the shaker is very frosty and cold.
- Strain the cognac cocktail into a coupe or champagne flute (your choice).
- Top the cocktail with champagne.
- Serve with a twist of lemon or even an Amarena cherry like the one’s we used in these bellinis.
I admit, I won’t pop a bottle of $50 Veuve Cliquot to top this easy “champagne” cocktail. Instead, I opt for a very reasonably priced facsimile… This Cremant de Bourgogne is about $9 at Trader Joe’s. After you make a few cocktails, seal it up with a champagne cork and save the rest for brunch spritzers the next day.
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French 75 with Cognac
- 1 cup ice
- 1 1/4 ounces VSOP Cognac
- 1/4 ounce lemon juice
- 1/4 ounce simple syrup
- 2 drops bitters I used Peychauds, but other orange bitters would work well too.
- 2 ounces sparkling wine
- 1 thick lemon peel twisted for presentation (optional)
- In a cocktail shaker add the ice, cognac, lemon juice, bitters & simple syrup. Secure the lid and shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker is frosty and cold.
- Strain the cocktail into a coupe glass and finish with the sparkling wine and lemon peel. Serve.
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