Even if you’re not French, Liberté, Egalité & Fraternité — the rallying cry of the revolutionaries who stormed the Bastille Prison — is a pretty good motto to live by.
There’s a je ne sais quois I love about French culture, idea of taking pleasure in sharing a meal made with fine seasonal ingredients with friends and embracing your own special style. I still get choked up when Les MisÃérables comes on KQED. To celebrate Bastille Day, I thought I’d share three of my favorite French-inspired cocktails.
1. The French 75
This spirited combination of champagne, lemon and either gin or cognac depending on the season, is a quintessential aperitif. As the story goes, it was created by WWI American officers serving in France who marvelled at the 75mm artillery guns that were still quite powerful and smooth The piquant quality primes your appetite. Since it’s warm outside, I’ll be making mine with gin. In cooler weather, switch to cognac.
1 ounce gin (like Citadel or G’Vine from France)
1/2 ounce homemade sour mix
4 ounces brut champagne, chilled
brandy-soaked cherry, for garnish
Add the gin and sour mix to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well-chilled and strain into a champagne flute. Top with the champagne and drop in the cherry.
2. The French Martini
France has been the source of some amazing liqueurs and mixers — Grand Marnier, Chartreuse, creme de violette and the new darling St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur. But few are as beloved as Chambord, the black raspberry liqueur in the spherical bottle that dates to the late 1600s. The company created a French martini as a marketing campaign and the cocktail has found an appreciative audience.
1-1/2 ounces Chambord flavored vodka
1/2 ounce Chambord Liqueur
2 ounces pineapple juice
fresh raspberries, for garnish
Add the vodka, Chambord and pineapple juice to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well-chilled and strain into a petite martini glass. Garnish with raspberries.
3. Kir Royale
This old favorite of mine honors Felix Kir, the former mayor of Dijon, France who was a heroic figure in the 1940s French Resistance. The regular Kir features white Burgundy (chardonnay) wine and crème de cassis; the upgraded Kir Royale is always made with champagne. Old Felix must have been an amazing guy to have such an elegant and enduring cocktail named after him.
½ ounce crème de cassis
5 to 6 ounces brut champagne, chilled
Lemon twist, for garnish
Add crème de cassis to a champagne flute. Top with champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.