The French 76 is the vodka version of the classic French 75 cocktail. It’s a boozy and citrusy Champagne cocktail garnished with a cherry. The French 76 can be served with brunch or enjoyed in the evening as a celebratory toast.
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What is the French 76 Cocktail?
The French 76 is a version of the classic French 75 (which is made with gin). Over the years there have been many versions of the French 75 and this one hails from the 1990s. It’s essentially a vodka sour topped off with sparkling wine.
It features a simple ingredient list of vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup and sparkling wine (most often Champagne). On occasion angostura bitters are also added. And instead of a lemon twist, the French 76 is garnished with a maraschino cherry.
What Makes this the “Best” French 76?
This French 76 recipe stays very true to the traditional cocktail by still featuring vodka, lemon juice and a simple syrup. However, instead of a basic simple syrup I up the ante by making a lemon simple syrup.
To make the lemon simple syrup I use the “spent” lemon halves to infuse the simple syrup. To do this, the lemon halves are simmered with the sugar (or honey) and water for a couple of minutes. After that, the mixture is removed from heat and the lemons steep in the syrup until it’s completely cooled.
Chill the Ingredients
This cocktail isn’t shaken to chill so it’s important that all of the component are well chilled before assembling. I recommend making the simple syrup ahead of time and storing it in the refrigerator until well-chilled. Likewise, chill the lemon juice, vodka and sparkling wine until ready to serve.
If you haven’t chilled the ingredients, you can shake the vodka, lemon juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour it into a champagne flute and top with sparkling wine.
Tips for Serving a Crowd
One (750mL) bottle of Champagne will make 8–10 cocktails depending on how large the champagne flutes are. If 2.5 ounces of Champagne are added to each cocktail, you’ll get 10 total drinks. If 3 ounces is added to each flute, you’ll get 8 cocktails.
To make 8 servings in advance: combine 1 cup vodka, ½ cup fresh lemon juice, and ¼ cup simple syrup in a pitcher. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
To serve, pour 1 ¾ ounces (3 ½ tablespoons) of the cocktail into a champagne flute. Top with 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) sparkling wine.
How to Make a Lemon Twist
Adding a lemon twist to any citrusy cocktail is a simple way to add the “wow-factor”.
- Use a vegetable peeler and remove a three to four inch portion of lemon peel.
- Slice the lemon peel into strips by running a paring knife lengthwise down the peel.
- Twist the lemon peel around your finger or a straw to create a spiral.
- Garnish as desired (on the rim of a glass, dropped in a cocktail, to top a cake, etc.).
You can also use a channeling knife which is traditional, and I think, easier!
Favorite Cocktails Made with Sparkling Wine
French 76 Cocktail Recipe
Lemon Simple Syrup
- 2 lemons
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- 1 ounce vodka
- ½ ounce fresh lemon juice
- ¼ ounce lemon simple syrup *recipe below
- 2 ½–3 ounces dry sparkling wine, such as brut Champagne
- Maraschino cherry for garnish
Lemon Simple Syrup
- Juice two lemons; set juice aside for cocktail. Add 2 juiced lemon halves to a small saucepan and add ½ cup granulated sugar or honey and ½ cup water.
- Bring mixture to a boil over high heat and cook 2 minutes; remove from heat and let steep until cooled completely.
- Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and discard solids.
- Add vodka, lemon juice and simple syrup to a champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine and garnish with maraschino cherry.
- It’s best to make the simple syrup ahead of time so it can chill before being served. Likewise, chill the lemon juice, vodka and sparkling wine before using.
- Alternatively, if you haven’t chilled the ingredients, you can shake the vodka, lemon juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice before pouring it into a champagne flute and topping with sparkling wine.