I love going to bars and ordering a classic drink and having the bartender tell me its story. You know the kind:
- “Ah, a good choice. [The Screwdriver] was Truman Capote’s favourite!”
- “The Gin Rickey is something you and Fitzgerald agree on!”
- “Oh yes, a margarita is the perfect cool down on a hot day, or so thought Jack Kerouac.”
I love knowing that interesting people drink what I drink. I like knowing the stories behind the booze… which is why I often find myself ordering French 75s at good bars, because I love the stories that barmen tell with the drink, largely because it’s never the same story. Ever.
Was it made by English soldiers fighting in France in the first World War? Or by French soldiers in the Second? Was it really shaken together in 75 artillery shell? Was it the favourite drink of King Kalakaua of Hawaii? Or was it Charles Dickens who served it to his friends who visited him in Boston?
There are no shortage of tall tales around the drink, and I love all of them. They are all much too ridiculous to be true, I think, which is why I’m inclined to believe that they were invented at Harry’s Bar in Paris in 1915. But no matter how you cut it, it’s wonderful. It’s the best way to booze up a bottle of bubbles, and the easiest way to make a bad bottle suddenly become wonderful.
All you do is mix together a wee bit of lemon, sugar and gin and then top the whole thing up with some bubbly. But if you’re feeling festive and want to gussy it up a bit, as I often do this time of year, you ought to make them with mandarin oranges instead of lemons.
It’s the simplest little switch up, but your classic drink all of a sudden takes on a life of its own, and it is endlessly pretty there with the bright orange pieces floating around in it. It’s darn near the perfect holiday drink, if I do say so myself.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 pieces of mandarin orange
- 1/4 oz simple syrup
- 1/2 oz gin
To make simple syrup, bring sugar and water to a boil. Stir until it is completely dissolved. Allow to cool.
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, mix half the orange segments with the simple syrup and gin. Shake vigorously.
Pour into a champagne flute and top with bubbles.