Thursday, December 4, 2008

French 75 Followup

For the advanced players, double points for mixing your French 75 using Andre Strawberry sparkling wine. Triple points if you can keep a straight face at the checkout counter while buying it.

All extra points forfeited if you blurt out an excuse to the cashier like: "It's for my girlfriend/wife/fiance/teenage daughter."

Lemon Liqueur and French 75's

Christmas has not yet passed, my party has not yet occurred, nor have I cleaned up the aftermath, but I'm already planning for New Year's Eve.

If you know me at all, you know that I'm fond of sparkling wine, which I unabashedly refer to interchangeably as champagne. I'm cultured and fancy and all that nonsense, but I'm also practical and have a decent command of the English language and economy of words. "Champagne" is simply easier to say.

In any blog that I write, "champagne" will generally mean any sparkling wine unless something is specified by name.

Last year around this time, I discovered a rather decadent champagne cocktail that I became quickly fond of. The problem with champagne cocktails is uncorking a bottle of champagne and finishing it before it goes flat. You can save it for a mimosa in the morning if you're not drinking on a weeknight, but that's another blog entirely. I said all that to say, a French 75 is a rare treat for me.

The recipe, as I've interpretted and perfected it, is as follows:

1.5oz gin
1oz lemon juice
1tsp of powdered sugar
4oz - 6oz of champagne

I almost always mix these two at a time and may fudge the proportions a bit depending on the volume of the drinking vessels and how froggy I'm feeling that evening. Simply shake the first three ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker, strain into a glass and top with champagne. On the rocks or straight up? Yes. If your champage is chilled, feel free to serve the cocktail up. I prefer mine on the rocks in a double old-fashioned simply by virtue of the fact that champagne packs a hell of a hangover.

If served "up," a cocktail/martini glass or a champagne goblet (not to be confused with a champagne flute) is appropropriate. From what I understand, the modern "martini" glass is a fairly recent invention -- an evolution of the traditional stout, rounded champagne goblet in which early martinis were served.

But mixing and shaking and dealing with sticky sugar and lemon juice is such a hassel. What if you run out of ice to shake AND serve with!? The solution is lemon liqueur.

The non-champagne portion of the French 75 is nothing more than sweetened gin with lemon juice added. Essentially gin, water, sugar and critic acid in varying proportions. You could easily replace the shaken portion of the cocktail with a pre-chilled sweet lemon liqueur.

Which brings us to lemon liqueur:

15 lemons
4 cups of gin
2 - 3 cups of simple syrup

Wash the lemons thorough (as if I didn't have to remind you) and remove the "zest" with a microplane or fine grater. Don't go too deep; the white pith is bitter. Place the zest and gin in a large glass container and let it steep for about a week, swishing it around when you get bored or impatient.

After a week, run the whole thing through a fine mesh strainer or coffee filter, and you've got soup!

Every red-blooded cocktail lover should know how to whip up simple syrup (and sour mix when in a pinch, for that matter). 1 part water, 1 part sugar, bring to a boil, stir until dissolved. Let the syrup cool before mixing with anything. Once your syrup is complete and cooled, decide how much to add to your liqueur. You could add as much as 4 cups, but at that point, it starts to taste like slightly lemony sugar water with a hint of gin. I err on the side of too little simple syrup rather than too much. Remember, you can always add more. Sweeten your liqueur based on how dry or sweet the champage with which you will be mixing it is.

If using a spumante, for God's sake man, maybe add two cups of simple syrup in your liqueur; if using an extra dry or dry brut, you may want to add a bit more.

Ok, time to go swish my bottle impatiently!