This honey and ginger-laced variation on the classic French 75 is the perfect festive cocktail for the holidays and other winter celebrations.
If you’re looking for a unique and elegant drink to serve on New Year’s Eve, this fancy bubbly cocktail is a great choice that’s also easy to batch for guests.
About the classic gin and champagne cocktail
The French 75 we know today first appeared in print during the late 1920s. According to cocktail historian David Wondrich, people had long been enjoying the mix of gin and champagne (and also cognac and champagne), but sometime during Prohibition, someone gave it the name French 75.
The name is a reference to the 75mm field gun, which was used by both the French and the Americans during World War I. The powerful bang of the large caliber firearm was the perfect metaphor for the potent punch packed by this boozy mix of spirits and sparkling wine!
Gin or Cognac?
Some say that the French 75 was classically made with Cognac, rather than gin. This would be logical since Champagne, the dry sparkling wine of choice for the cocktail, is French, and Cognac is a French brandy.
It’s unclear whether the mix of Cognac and champagne or gin and champagne came first, but it was the gin-based drink that became the best known French 75 recipe. See my list of variations below to learn how to make it with brandy, other spirits, and other flavors instead!
How to make the cocktail
To make a Classic French 75, pour one ounce of gin and a half ounce each of simple syrup and freshly squeezed lemon juice into a champagne flute.
Top with a few ounces of dry sparkling wine and garnish with a long lemon peel. To make this Honey Ginger French 75, we’ll replace the plain simple syrup with an easy ginger-infused honey simple syrup.
How to make the ginger honey simple syrup
Simple syrup is a mix of equal parts water and sugar. You can easily flavor your syrup by gently heating it on the stove with your botanicals of choice. This syrup is so easy to make, you don’t even have to heat it!
We’re using honey instead of white sugar as our sweetener, but you could also make this syrup with sugar instead. To make the syrup, combine ½ cup of honey with ½ cup of water and stir until the honey has dissolved.
Add 2 tablespoons of The Ginger People Ginger Juice (available on Amazon or at Whole Foods) and stir to combine. Store any leftover syrup in a sealed bottle or jar in the refrigerator. This syrup should last up to two weeks.
If you can’t find the ginger juice, you can also make ginger honey syrup with fresh ginger root, it just takes a little longer.
To make the syrup with ginger root, combine 1/2 cup of honey and 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan and heat over medium, stirring frequently, until all of the sugar has dissolved.
Add a piece of peeled and chopped ginger root (about a 2 inch chunk) and bring the syrup to a boil. Once bubbling, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.
Remove the syrup from the heat and let it cool for at least 30 minutes before straining. Strain out the ginger pieces and store the syrup in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
You can also use this ginger honey syrup in my Pear Ginger Pisco Sour!
Tips to make this bubbly cocktail even better
To make the best French 75 possible, be sure to chill all of your ingredients in advance. You should also chill your champagne flutes if at all possible.
Another way to get your ingredients ice cold and to make the drink taste even better is to shake the gin, lemon, and syrup with ice. Strain the chilled liquids into the flute, then top with chilled champagne or other dry sparkling wine.
Express a lemon twist over the drink and run the peel along the rim of the flute. This will add bright, fresh citrus oils that enhance the crisp and refreshing flavor of the drink.
What gin to use
For this Honey Ginger French 75, I used Uncle Val’s Zested Gin, which was gifted to me. It’s a wonderful citrus-forward gin with notes of bergamot, juniper, and white pepper.
Other great gin options are classic, junipery London dry gins like Tanqueray, Beefeater, or Bombay Sapphire.
Other citrusy gins to try include Malfy con Limone or Citadelle.
What kind of sparkling wine to use
Champagne is the classic choice for a French 75, but it’s totally ok to use any quality sparkling wine that’s dry rather than sweet.
I used Freixenet Cava, a nice Spanish sparkling wine. Other great options are prosecco or even sparkling rosé!
Two ways to batch for a group
Method 1: To batch for a group with most of the prep done in advance, set out your champagne flutes on a serving tray. Into each glass, pour one ounce of gin, a half ounce of fresh lemon juice, and a half ounce of honey ginger syrup.
Carefully transfer the tray of glasses to the refrigerator until guests arrive. When it’s time, remove the tray from the fridge and top each glass with chilled bubbly. Garnish each with a lemon twist.
Method 2: If you don’t have room in the fridge, measure out your gin, lemon juice, and syrup multiplied by the number of guests you’ll have. Combine the liquids in a pitcher, stir well, and chill it in the refrigerator. When guests arrive, fill each flute with two ounces of your chilled mix, then top with champagne.
French 75 variations
There are so many ways to riff on this classic bubbly cocktail. You can experiment with different types of gin, other base spirits, other types of sparkling wine, flavored liqueurs, different citrus juices, or any variety of flavored simple syrups! Here are some of the best known French 75 variations:
Cognac: Make this drink extra French with one ounce of Cognac in place of the gin.
Vodka: Apparently some folks like to make their French 75s with vodka instead of gin. If you have some vodka lovers (or folks who don’t like gin) on your holiday get together guest list, you could make this recipe with vodka and it will still work.
In fact, you could use virtually any base spirit and it will still be tasty – but it won’t really be a French 75. Make it with tequila, lime juice, and simple syrup or agave syrup and you’ve got yourself a Champagne Margarita. Make it with gold rum, honey simple syrup, and lime juice and it becomes a classic Air Mail!
Elderflower: An Elderflower French 75 is probably the most popular variation on the original. You can add a splash of high quality elderflower liqueur (like St Germain) to the classic recipe, or replace the simple syrup with the liqueur. You may need to add a quarter ounce of simple syrup for balance.
Other flavored syrups: Add seasonal flavors by replacing the simple syrup with cranberry syrup, strawberry syrup, even the intensely citrusy oleo saccharum syrup!
On the rocks: Though it’s rarely seen today, the earliest French 75s were served over ice in highball or Collins glasses. If you like your drinks extra cold and with a bit more dilution, this is a great variation to try!
Make it a mocktail: It’s easy to make alcohol-free French 75s with the non-alcoholic sparkling wines available widely today. But even if you don’t have a bottle of booze-free bubbly on hand, you can make your non-drinking or under age guests feel like part of the celebration by using sparkling water in place of the champagne and gin. Increase the lemon juice and syrup to one ounce each, then top the mixture with ice cold sparkling water or club soda. Add a dash of alcohol-free aromatic bitters to give the drink more complexity.
You may also enjoy these other festive cocktail recipes:
- Cranberry Campari Spritz
- Mandarin Ginger Gin Sour
- Rosemary Gimlet
- Cranberry Christmas Mimosas
- Strawberry Negroni Sbagliato
Honey Ginger French 75 (Gin and Champagne Cocktail)
- 1 oz gin
- ½ oz lemon juice
- ½ oz ginger honey simple syrup (recipe below)
- 4 oz champagne (or other dry sparkling wine)
- Chill all ingredients in advance. Pour the first three ingredients into a chilled champagne flute and top with chilled champagne.
- Alternatively, you can add the first three ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a champagne flute. Top with chilled champagne.
- Garnish with a lemon twist and a piece of candied ginger, if desired.