war on the rocks

À votre santé, France

November 17, 2015

Brazen attacks in France’s capital last Friday showed us once again that the worst of humanity will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. Amid an outpouring of grief and expressions of solidarity from around the world, one message in particular stands somewhat apart — that of HBO’s John Oliver. On Sunday night, just two days after the horrific attacks, he argued that none of the attackers’ goals will be achieved and that France will endure. Why? “Because if you’re in a war of culture and lifestyle with France, good fucking luck!”

France surely deserves our warmest condolences and our public expressions of support. But at a time when the country has been wracked by such a tragedy, France also deserves for all of us to remember the wonderful gifts and ideas that Paris and France have shared and inspired, including many in the world of libations. Get your bar tools ready to try one of these French-inspired cocktails below, and raise a glass with War on the Rocks and Molotov Cocktail to our friends, far across the Atlantic and yet so close to our hearts.

ChampsÉlysées

This classic cocktail gets its name from the incredible avenue in France commonly referred to as “a plus belle avenue du monde” or “the most beautiful avenue in the world.” The earliest reference to the cocktail is in “The Savoy Cocktail Book” published by Harry Craddock in 1930, but its history is quite murky with no real reference to its inventor. The original version of this drink calls for “Chartreuse” without specifying either green or yellow, but in my experience we would use green whenever it was ordered at the bar.

Ingredients and preparation as follows:

1½ ounces French cognac (I prefer Kelt)
¾ ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ ounce Green Chartreuse
¼ ounce simple syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters

Chill a cocktail glass. Build all ingredients in a shaker tin. Add ice and shake for 10 seconds, then double strain with a Hawthorne and tea strainer into your chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

French 75

Another drink whose first recorded appearance is in “The Savoy Cocktail Book” is the French 75. It seems the recipe of this classic originated from one “Mr. McGarry,” the head bartender at Buck’s Club in London, a historic gentleman’s club opened in 1919. McGarry’s first name is lost to history, but three of his contributions to cocktails, the French 75, Sidecar, and Mimosa (aka the “Buck’s Fizz”), persist. However, McGarry didn’t name the French 75 — that moniker was ascribed by Harry MacElhone, owner and proprietor of the legendary Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. MacElhone paid tribute to the 75-mm howitzer field gun that both the French and Americans had used to great effect, most recently during World War I. As Harry Craddock explains, “it hits with remarkable precision,” and I don’t think he’s talking about the gun.

1 ounce London Dry Gin (I prefer Beefeater)
½ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce simple syrup
3 ounces Champagne

Chill a champagne flute. Add all of the ingredients except champagne into a shaker tin and shake for less than 10 seconds. Double strain with a Hawthorne and tea strainer into your chilled flute. Top with champagne and use a lemon peel for garnish.

Sazerac

History points us to our old friend Antoine Amedie Peychaud (of Peychaud’s Bitters fame) as the original creator of this cocktail, born when he mixed brandy, sugar, and his bitters in 1838 to share with his friends. Nowadays you will find this cocktail typically made with rye whiskey, but for our purposes we will use cognac as the base (it’s better this way anyway).

2 ounces French cognac (again, Kelt works here)
¼ ounce simple syrup (for a different flavor, I like to use raspberry syrup, as it goes well with cognac)
7­–12 dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters (depending on your tastes)
Absinthe rinse

Chill a footed rocks glass or whiskey tumbler. Build all ingredients except for absinthe in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until the outside of the glass is cold to the touch. Take your chilled glass and add a few dashes of absinthe and rinse the glass with it, discarding any extra. Now use a julep strainer to pour your mixture into the rinsed glass and garnish with a lemon peel.

Paix

This drink is an original I created as a nod to our Parisian brothers and sisters, and our eternal search for peace in a complicated world. It is a boozy drink, but I feel that may be what we all need at this moment.

¾ ounce Calvados
¾ ounce Gin
¾ ounce Lemon Juice
½ ounce Simple syrup
¼ ounce Crème de Cassis
1 dash of Celery bitters

Chill a cocktail glass. Build all ingredients in shaker tin. Add ice and shake for 10 seconds, then double strain with a Hawthorne and tea strainer into your chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

Each of these cocktails pays homage to a country rich in culture but currently deep in mourning. With gratitude for that culture and in solidarity during that mourning: À votre santé, France.

 

Andre Gziryan is a Soviet-born American who prefers G.I. Joe to Uncle Joe. He is a former barman who currently works as an international trade analyst at the Department of Commerce. What he lacks in military knowledge he makes up for with a love of all things creative and spirituous.

 

Photo credit: Yann Caradec