I made my first trip to New Orleans last weekend and had the pleasure of going to the renowned Arnaud’s Restaurant and French 75 Bar. Arnaud’s is one of New Orleans oldest and most beloved restaurants. It was built in 1918 by a French wine salesman Arnaud Cazenave, but some of the building dates back to the 1700s. It’s a sprawling, one-of-a-kind establishment with a grand dining room where waiters in tuxes serve up Creole delicacies (Souffle Potatoes! Alligator Sausage!), a Jazz Bistro with strolling musicians, a mini Mardi Gras Museum, private dining rooms overlooking Bourbon St., and reportedly a couple of resident ghosts. The highlight of our visit, however, was Arnaud’s French 75 Bar and Chris Hannah- quite possibly America’s coolest bartender. When we walked into the bar a woman who had perhaps had one too many milk punch was asking him “Hey aren’t you famous or something? I read about you somewhere…maybe TripAdvisor.” He just smiled and gave a non-committal nod. Upon researching for this post I found he could have said “Don’t you mean the New York Times?” A visit with him at French 75 is first on their list of things to do with your 36 Hours in New Orleans.
Aside from being cool as a cucumber, the kind of guy who seems like he’d make a good spy, Chris pours a perfect French 75 cocktail. There is a debate raging in the mixology world as to whether a French 75 should be made with cognac or gin. The first known published recipe is in The Savoy Cocktail Book from 1930 where gin is listed as the spirit, but it is believed to have been invented in Paris at Harry’s New York Bar where cognac was likely used. Chris stands firmly in the cognac camp though gin is more commonly used nowadays. I first had one at the Hemingway Bar in Paris, where it was made with cognac. It has been my favorite cocktail ever since, so I am also convinced cognac is the way to go. Here’s the recipe, but keep in mind this drink was named after a 75mm canon. The mixer is Champagne, not club soda, so though it goes down smoothly, it packs a punch. Laissez les bon temps rouler! , Jacq
French 75 Cocktail
1 1/4 oz Cognac
1/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Simple Syrup
3 oz very cold Champagne
Shake first three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled Champagne glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Here is the video recipe: