Cocktail of the Week: Anno Kent Dry Gin's Kentish 75 packs a Big Gun

Anno Distillery’s Kentish 75 is a play on the well-known cocktail, the French 75. Like most popular cocktails, the French 75’s origins are convoluted and versions of its recipes date to well before its first appearance in cocktail books. Liquor historian David Wondrich traces a first version of what we now know as the 75 back to Boston in 1867. Charles Dickens, on his second visit to the Massachusetts capital, stayed at the Parker Hotel where the big literary guns of the day - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the like - used to gather for their Saturday Night Club. One document shows that Dickens liked to serve his colleagues “Tom gin and champagne cups”. 

anno dry kent gin

It wasn’t until decades later, in 1919 that perhaps the world’s most well-known bartender, Harry McElhone of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, published a recipe called the “75 Cocktail” which combined gin, absinthe, grenadine and Calvados in what today we know as a Tom Collins glass. A few years later that the 1922 book by London bartender Robert Vermiere added lemon to the mix. The recipe we now recognise - gin, lemon juice, sugar and champagne - took its form in a 1927 anti-Prohibition cocktail book called “Here’s How” published in the States. By 1930, Harry Craddock, who rivals McElhone as the world’s most well-known bartender, published the Savoy Cocktail Book which included the “Here’s How” recipe under the name “French 75”.

anno kent

The cocktail’s recipe origins may baffle drinks historians to this day, but its namesake certainly doesn’t. During World War I, French and American airmen shaking off their battle flights began mixing wine and spirits, pilots which would show their faces in McElhone’s Paris bar who appears to have mixed a first version of his drink in 1915. The airmen equated the strength of a wine and spirits cocktail to the kick of the French quick-firing field gun, the Matériel de 75mm Mle 1897, an artillery piece known simply as the French 75.

From the time of its first production through World War I, the French 75 was the most sought after artillery piece in the war and used by the armies of several nations, including the UK. The British army ordered 29 of the guns throughout the war, primarily for use in the fight against German planes and zeppelins attacking from the English Channel, some of which would have been used at strategic locations in Kent whose cities the Germans bombed on numerous occasions. If there is any evidence of British soldiers in Kent drinking gin, lemon juice, sugar and Kentish sparkling wine, perhaps the origins of the Kentish 75 will become just as convoluted as that of its French namesake.

Kentish 75

25ml Anno Kent Dry Gin
100ml Kentish Sparkling wine or Prosecco
Fresh lemon juice (dash)
Sugar syrup (dash)

Shake gin, sugar syrup and lemon juice with ice. Stir in sparkling wine. Strain. Serve in a flute. Garnish with a raspberry or strawberry in the bottom of the glass