The French 76

Cooking a Thanksgiving meal is thirsty work. Around noon last Thursday I felt it was time for a holiday cocktail. Drinking early in the day is a delicate process though; one needs one's few wits, so is wary of the hard stuff, like my beloved Sazerac, my winter drink. The hard stuff is so much more palitable at, say, 5 pm.

We had a bottle of Asti Spumante in the 'fridge. It's very sweet yet dull. A joke in the wine world, no better than that peachy colored "white zinfandel" quaffed by ladies who don't really like wine. However, Spumante is low in alcohol and had bubbles, so it at least got me thinking.

My first thought was the French 75, a refresher named for one of my favorite cannons from W.W. I. An ounce of gin meanders its resiny goodness through lemon juice, sugar, and (mostly) champagne in an elegant flute. It's refreshing, slightly tart, and not overly alcoholic, so seemed to fit my bill.

But, I thought, the sweetness of the Spumanti would still be the dominant note in this little alcoholic quartet. How to balance?

My answer was to cut out the sugar (naturally) and to introduce a bitter element, which I did in the form of Campari. Campari mixes beautifully with gin in the classic Negroni; also, it turns out, in the French 76.

Like the amps in Spinal Tap, is the 76 "one better" than the 75? No, but I would say it's its equal.

I'm now saddened to report that I once poured a bottle of Asti Spumante onto our compost pile. (My wife gets them as Xmas gifts from her boss.) Never again.

French 76
to a flute add:
1 oz. gin
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz. Campari
top with cheap champage

garnish with twish of fresh orange peel