6 Classic French Cocktails You Can Make At Home

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The days are getting longer, which means that happy hour is too. Each of these 6 French cocktails captures the essence of la vie française, so whether you’re warding off the last chill of winter with bourbon, or welcoming summer with open arms and a bottle of champagne, this list should provide you with a libation for every mood.

1. Kir

Paolo Vilela

You can get a kir at just about any bar in Paris, but it’s probably not something you’ll drink in the US unless you make it at home. Invented by Canon Félix Kir, priest, mayor of Dijon, and a hero of the French resistance during World War II, the drink is simple yet satisfying. Just get a glass of white wine (no need to splurge, as the second ingredient really controls the flavor profile of this drink), and add a bit of crème de cassis, or blackcurrant liqueur. The cassis is rather sweet, so go with a dry wine, or substitute with champagne for a kir royale.


6 oz Dry White Wine

2 tbsp Crème de Cassis

2. St. Germain Spritz

There are a few slight variations on this bright, floral summer drink, starring St. Germain elderflower liqueur, the tagline of which is literally, “Parisian life in a bottle.” But the basic idea is St. Germain plus bubbly. For a heftier drink, omit the sparkling water, or substitute it for an ounce of gin.

1.5 oz St. Germain

2 oz Dry Sparkling Wine or Champagne

2 oz Sparkling Water

3. Boulevardier

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Invented by Erskine Gwynne, the Boulevardier is named after a publication of the same name, also the product of the aforementioned American. Essentially a bourbon Negroni, the Boulevardier was designed to embody the spirit of the Parisian cafe dwellers who brought life to Paris’s grand boulevards during Gwynne’s time there in the 1920s. Stir and serve over ice.

1.5 oz Bourbon

.75oz. Sweet Vermouth

.75oz Campari

Garnish with a flamed orange peel

4. Rose

One of the more popular beverages of 1920s Paris, invented at the Chatham Hotel bar, the Rose is made from dry French vermouth and Kirsch (a brandy distilled from sour cherries). The drink is sweetened with some kind of fruit liqueur or syrup, usually cherry, strawberry, or raspberry–then shaken. This one will require a more dedicated barback, but it’ll be worth it to have an oft-overlooked taste of jazz age France.

1.75 oz French vermouth (preferably Noilly Prat)

1 oz Kirsch

.5 oz Cherry, Raspberry, or Strawberry Liqueur

Garnish with a single brandied cherry (or maraschino in a pinch)

5. Sidecar

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This cocktail, which became popular at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris at the end of the First World War, is one of many with a somewhat mythical origin. It was allegedly named for an American military man who supposedly rode up to the bar in a motorcycle sidecar, asking for a pre-dinner cocktail. No matter the namesake, however, the drink is a classic for a reason, and meant to be served shaken in your favorite utility glass.

1 oz Cognac

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz Lemon Juice

6. Death in the Afternoon

Invented in Paris by Ernest Hemingway, this absinthe and champagne beverage packs quite the punch. Though the writer himself advised “drinking three to five slowly,” you’ll feel the headrush from the absinthe after the first glass. Perhaps take a peek at our list of absinthe brands available in the U.S. to aid your selection.

1.5 oz Absinthe

5 oz Champagne or Sparkling Wine