Sunday, August 9, 2009

The French Way

I'm not really a gin guy - rum is my go-to tipple, with tequila and American whiskey also favored. But it seems that gin was the main ingredient of the classic cocktail era. Now, to me, this is weird. Basing all beverages on a juniper-flavored liquor is like basing a national cuisine on fennel, or something. But I didn't come here to talk about that.

I wanted to talk about 2 cocktails - the French 75 and the French Pearl. The French 75 is a classic from the Great War. The story goes that an aviator wanted something with a little more kick than champagne, so he added a shot of cognac. The final drink included some lemon juice and sugar. It is said to hit with the force of a French 75-mm Howitzer.

I've seen a number of variations. Some recipes add triple sec, like making a sidecar with champagne. The French 76 has vodka in place of cognac. The French 77 adds a splash of St. Germain's elderflower liqueur. I've actually never tried any of these.

I have had a version of the French Pearl. This modern classic, invented by Audrey Saunders of NY's Pegu Club, is a martini-type cocktail of gin, lime juice, sugar and a splash of Pernod or absinthe. It's a lovely iridescent green-gold-grey, with a haunting flavor.

Somehow, I got these drinks mixed up in my head, so when we had some champagne around (for champagne mojitos), I reached for the gin and made:

The French Way (75 French Pearls)

1 shot gin
1 oz. lime juice
Pinch of sugar or dash simple syrup
1/2 oz. absinthe

Shake over ice and pour into champagne flute
Top up with chilled champagne

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