What is it about Casablanca? Rick Blaine. Ilsa. Released in 1942 just as a second WWII front line was opening up in Northern Africa, the film was its own kind of Operation Torch no thanks in part to its brooding lead, mysterious Swede and classic screenplay. Audiences embraced this quirky flick about an expat and his bar.
It’s funny how a film about a bar man has little mention of actual cocktails and mixers. It’ll be bourbon for Rick, a Cointreau for Lazlo and a French 75 for the random… mmm …German or two, but that’s about it. Champagne cocktails, Old World brandies and cognacs, but mostly this is just a story “about a boy, standing front of a girl, asking her to love him.” I adore movies like that!
My good friend google and I had a little chat about this French 75 business. Specifically, 75 what?? mm. Field gun. Picture it – France. WWI. Developed in the 20s at Harry’s New York Bar by a Scotsman living in Paris, it’s no wonder this is the one cocktail explicitly ordered at Rick’s Bar Americain on the movie streets of Casablanca. (I’m, of course, discrediting the Champagne Cocktail on the grounds of French 75 –> Champagne Cocktail. See what I did there!)
As Bogart is my favorite actor of all-time, a French 75 on a Casablanca night sounds like the perfect start to a wintry weekend. Adapted from Ina Garten’s latest cookbook, I like to think of this mixer as the Ace of Clubs, a cocktail of optimism and invention.
After all, Rick wouldn’t have missed the irony of a German ordering a drink with a kick so powerful it was named after the gun that led France to victory in WWI. As the screen fades and the lights dim on the African battlefields of WWII, the sun shines brightly from the raised glass of a champagne coupe. Tomorrow is a new day. “Here’s looking at you, kid!”
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cognac
- 1 tablespoon simple syrup
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 strip lemon peel, twisted
- Good quality champagne
- Make the simple syrup by bringing the sugar and water to a gentle simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat, cooking until the sugar is dissolved. Cool and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
- Mix yourself a cocktail! Combine the cognac, simple syrup and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice cubes, shaking until chilled and well combined (about 30 seconds). Pour this sugary lemony cognacky goodness into a champagne flute, garnish with a twist of lemon and top with chilled bubbly champagne. Enjoy immediately and with a good dose of Casablanca!
- P.S. there will be leftover simple syrup...in case you're craving another!