It’s easy to think of France as nothing but a wine drinking country. Not so fast. While Americans were trying to figure out our alcohol-free Great Experiment, bartenders in Paris were figuring out some grade A cocktails. Accurate cocktail origin stories are generally hard to track down, but a handful of the classics Americans know and love today (and in some cases drink religiously every brunch) can be traced back to a few bars in the City of Lights: Harry’s New York Bar and the Ritz. So whether you’re in France or America, here are six French cocktails to drink like the French do.
6 French Cocktails Invented in Paris
The Brandy Crusta, a Cognac-based cocktail of lemon juice, orange liqueur, bitters and a sugar rim, was invented in the French-influenced city of New Orleans in the mid 1800s. But when cocktails couldn’t legally be made in the Big Easy anymore during Prohibition, a twist on the drink became even more popular in France. A bartender at Harry’s New York Bar took out the bitters and voilà, the Sidecar was born.
Your brunch has been French all along and you never even realized it. A bartender named Frank Meier invented the Mimosa at the Ritz Hotel in Paris in 1925—as much as anyone can “invent” a glass of OJ with Champagne mixed in. But Meier wasn’t even the first to mix those two ingredients. There was already a drink called Buck’s Fizz made with two parts Champagne to one part OJ (versus the Mimosa’s equal parts). Nevertheless, Meier got the naming rights and the historical documentation.
According to legend, the Bloody Mary was invented in the 1920s at Harry’s New York Bar. It also, more than likely, originally contained gin, not vodka. It was brought stateside after Prohibition by creator Fernand Petiot, who worked at the St. Regis Hotel in New York and served the drink there under the name Red Snapper. How about all the Bloody Mary festivals and over the top garnishes? That’s red-blooded American innovation.
You’re likely familiar with the Negroni, the forefather of the Boulevardier. The equal parts Italian drink was Frenchified (and, in a way, Americanized) in Paris in 1927 by Harry MacElhone at Harry’s New York Bar. MacElhone swapped the gin for American whiskey and named the drink in honor of bar regular Erskine Gwynne, who owned a publication called Boulevardier.
This drink has a less than romantic sounding name (it’s Glande de Singe in French, which isn’t much better), but they can’t all flow off the tongue. MacElhone, the same man responsible for the Boulevardier, mixed absinthe, gin and orange juice to make the Monkey Gland at the New York Bar in the 1920s. The name was supposedly inspired by French surgeon Serge Voronoff, who grafted monkey glands onto his human male patients to increase virility.
The White Lady is a disputed cocktail. MacElhone laid claim to one version that he created at the Ciro’s Club in London, and Harry Craddock alleged it was invented at The American Bar in London in the 1930s using gin instead of crème de menthe. But like most of the drinks on this list, Harry’s New York Bar in Paris claims to have made the original.
Fresh Lemon Juice