When’s the last time you grabbed a quick drink in France? Was it a lovely glass of wine or a fun cocktail? Personally, when I think of French drinking culture, I think first of wine, not cocktails. And whether that’s because I haven’t been there in 19 years, or because we think of wine as inherently French and cocktails as more American, are both subjects for another time.
Let’s talk cocktails in France. First, if you want some first-hand recommendations for finding great drinks in Paris, check out the artists’ interviews in The Tall Trees of Paris--each one is asked their favorite bar. But what about classic French cocktails. Searching for French cocktails will yield a multitude of results, but these six from Guest of a Guest are a great start.
Tracing the history of a cocktails birth can be tricky, but the French 75, aka 75 Cocktail or Soixante Quinze, is attributed to the New York Bar in Paris in 1915. The story goes that it was created by barman Harry MacElhone and named for the kick from a French 75mm field gun. Variations feature French cognac instead of gin.
A second well-known cocktail you’ll find in French bars is the Sidecar, although confirming its origins as a uniquely French cocktail are more difficult. Attributed to multiple bartenders, including MacElhone, and multiple establishments from the Ritz Hotel in Paris to Buck’s Club in London.
Like the French 75, the Kir Royale features champagne and is uniquely French. Believed to have been created by a French priest during WWII, it originally featured blackcurrant liqueur and white wine.
So, is there really a difference between cocktail culture in France and the U.S.? Do we make weirder cocktail combinations over here? In an effort to test the theory, I searched for “weird french cocktails.” The first result: 11 Unusual Drinks That Will Up Your Cocktail Game from Buzzfeed. The article features the French 75 as an alternative to a Mimosa (also a French cocktail). Ten of the eleven cocktails sound delicious, but they lost me with a cocktail that features avocado. And none of these are inherently weird or have much lineage from France. Then I searched “weird cocktails.” I won’t share the list I found from Huffington Post--no one needs to see those drinks. The only real conclusion I can draw is that there are cocktails, whether of French origin or not, that I need to try. Cocktails should sound good, taste good, and be sipped on. Which seems a very French philosophy. It makes me wish I was in Paris, on a bustling arrondissement, people-watching, with a Kir Royale. Fin.
Want more recommendations? Check out Saveur Magazine’s article on ten Paris-Inspired Cocktails or check out the bar recommendations from each artist in The Tall Trees of Paris.