What do you do when you have all the wrong ingredients? You improvise.
I made a French 75 (gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, champagne) using the ingredients I had, which meant prosecco instead of true champagne. I’d prefer to use Plymouth gin, but I have Breuckelen gin (which has a very strong grain flavor). I’m too lazy to mix up a simple syrup, so I’m substituting agave nectar. At least I have lemons.
I wasn’t worried about the prosecco or the agave, but the Breuckelen gin was going to be a problem. It’s great sipping gin—as the distillers told me, the grain spirits are so flavorful that they are essentially another botanical—but it’s so different than other gins out there that I’ve had to modify every cocktail I made with it. Some just don’t work. As Gary Regan says of genever gin, “it’s probably best if you don’t think of it as gin at all.” I’ve nearly reached the point where I’m ready to treat Breuckelen gin like the herbal whiskey it is and start making sazeracs, manhattans and whiskey sours with it.
But this time, it’s a French 75. This gives me the chance to use my old hand-crank ice crusher. I ran some cold water on the crusher so it doesn’t melt the ice as it crushes. Then I chilled a tall stemmed beer glass (instead of a Collins glass or a champagne flute). Pouring crushed ice into the cool beer glass, I add each ingredient in order: about a teaspoon of agave nectar; the juice of half a lemon; an ounce of Breuckelen gin; and finally, four measured ounces of prosecco.
The result is odd. As I feared, the gin gives it a peculiar flavor, and mixed with the sour lemon and the dry prosecco—it just doesn’t work. So how do I save the drink? Remembering the modified kir royale (champagne and crème de cassis) I made earlier, I decided to add a half ounce of cassis, the black currant liqueur. It helped tremendously.
I passed the heavily modified French 75 to my girlfriend to sample. She agreed the cassis was an improvement, but she thought it still needed more depth. Maybe cinnamon or nutmeg, she suggested. I grated a bit of nutmeg over the drink, and I’ll be damned: it was even better. We also tried a drop of aromatic bitters, but it wasn’t as good.
So it looks like we’ve invented a winter French 75 variation. And, I might add, the first cocktail with Breuckelen gin that I’ve really enjoyed.