Cookbook Tester: The Essential Cocktail by Dale DeGroff


Chantal is heading to Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans tomorrow, so you can look forward to insider stories of the cocktailarati. To kick off a boozy week, a test run of Dale DeGroff’s book The Essential Cocktail seemed appropriate. DeGroff is often known as the King of Cocktails, the guy who started the renaissance that changed bar culture so much that now, no matter where you are in the city, you’re probably only a short walk from a properly mixed drink.

The book is an excellent resource, covering the gamut of cocktail types–classics, modern classics, martinis, sours, highballs, tropicals, punches, and sweets–and the lore behind the creation of each one. For those who don’t have much experience mixing cocktails, many of the recipes are extremely straightforward. It’s wonky while remaining accessible–for example, an unusual recipe for egg nog from 1862, which combines bourbon, apple cider, egg, sugar, and cinnamon.

The recipe chosen for a test drive is the French 75, a drink that probably dates to around the early decades of the 1900s; DeGroff writes that one possible backstory is that American soldiers stationed in France during World War I were craving a Tom Collins, but lacked club soda. Somehow, they did find gin, Champagne, and maybe a lemon tree–and that’s a French 75. The drink is named after a French-made 75-millimeter shell.

French 75
Yield: 1 cocktail

From The Essential Cocktail, by Dale DeGroff. This recipe tested well, but some may prefer a sweeter sip, in which case just add more simple syrup to taste. To make simple syrup, combine equal parts water and sugar, and heat until sugar is dissolved. American brut sparkling wine worked just fine, and is infinitely more affordable than Champagne.

1 ounce Plymouth gin or cognac
3/4 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
3 ounces Champagne
spiral lemon peel, for garnish

Combine the gin or cognac with the syrup and lemon juice in a mixing glass with ice, and shake well. Strain into a large goblet over ice. Top with the Champagne, and garnish with the lemon peel.