The Forgotten Cocktails: Casablanca's Cocktail Masterpiece

I remember when I was planning my wedding, this bartender advised me never to serve champagne for the toast because people never drink it and I thought, why? Is that true? Isn't champagne nothing more than sparkling white wine which is, in my opinion, delicious? 

That said, if you are not a champagne lover you will hate this recipe. If you love champagne and the movie Casablanca, read on!

Casablanca & the French 75

A lot of people believe that Casablanca is the ultimate movie for cocktail lovers, given its setting in a gin-joint, and even the publicity shots sent out for the film (check out Ingrid Bergman above with cocktail in hand!). A few cocktails are mentioned in the film, but today, we're going to look at the French 75. 

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It is said that the French 75 is named after an artillery gun... perhaps because of its effect on the imbiber? Another story goes that the cocktail was a product of hodge-podging whatever was around for soldiers fighting in World War I. I imagine it being a kind of wartime version of creating dinner from whatever is leftover in a kitchen cupboard on an idle Tuesday night. 

Yet another origin story goes back to Charles Dickens, who served "‘tom gin and champagne cups" to his guests. If you are wondering what a champagne cup is, it basically means champagne combined with sugar and citrus. Sounds a lot like a French 75 to me! 

In the end, like the history of just about everything (especially cocktails) the true origins of the recipe are likely lost in transcription. Nowadays, it isn't a truly forgotten cocktail, but it is often overlooked, (though Kate Moss is said to favor a version of the French 75 with vodka instead of gin). 

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In the film, Humphrey Bogart's spurned girlfriend, Yvonne, shows up with a new man... a Nazi no less. and he orders a French 75. The French 75 seems to be the ultimate coping mechanism at Rick's Cafe for both sides of the battle.

I have to say, I am a creamy cocktail kinda gal (think Brandy Alexanders), but I adore the French 75. Gin is one of my favorite base liquors, and the addition of fresh lemon juice makes it even better. 

If you want to serve the cocktail in a truly authentic fashion, serve it in a coupe glass (also known as a champagne saucer, a completely different look from the champagne flute). It will make you feel like you are starring in the opening credits for Cheers! where all the drinkers are gaily sipping from one.  

ready to up you cocktail game? try these other libations from the golden age of cinema: