Friday drinks: French 75 – plus TV development season

Happy Friday! This week we have the legendary French 75 and a bit about TV development season.

The French 75 cocktail mixed by director Jeff Stewart. Photo by Jeff Stewart.

The French 75 gets its name from Champagne and the powerful French 75mm rapid-fire field gun. Some attribute the drink’s origin to bartender Harry MacElhone of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. Others cite a World War I pilot, a man of French and American descent, who wanted more kick with his Champagne and added gin plus a few other ingredients. As this particular legend would have it, the soldiers mixed their French 75s in a the spent shells from the WW I cannon. How’d you like a little gunpowder with your cocktail?

French 75mm field artillery gun. Photo courtesy of the Musee de l’Armee.

Whatever its origin, the paraphrased quote often associated with it remains consistent – down one of these babies and you’ll feel like you’ve just been blasted with a 75mm round.

When director Jeff Stewart, our resident mixologist, served up the French 75, I was stoked. I love good dry Champagne and knew nothing of the French 75’s butt-kicking history. This first thing you’ll notice is the lovely bubbly goodness of the Champagne. The flavor was also surprisingly citrus-y. What you won’t probably notice is the gin. There was none of the harshness you’d expect from a drink compared to a foot-long projectile speeding toward you at 1600 feet/sec. In fact, the cocktail was clean, crisp, and refreshing. It would be a great party drink when you have something special to celebrate.

Jeff recommends Plymouth or Hendricks gin for this cocktail, along with a dry white Champagne.

Wanna try Jeff’s recipe? Here it is.

2 oz. gin
1 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons of simple syrup
dry white champagne

Shake the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in an iced cocktail shaker for 25 seconds. Pour the mixture into a cocktail glass or champagne flute and top off with a healthy dash of champagne. Garnish with a lemon spiral.

Keep your glass-half full. Drink responsibly.

TV Development season

Speaking of being shot out of a canon, I just wanted to let you know why posting has been a little light and give you a preview of upcoming Hollywood posts.

Promo banner for Showtime’s “Episodes” starring Matt LeBlanc, Tamsen Greig, and Stephen Mangan.
Photo courtesy of Showtime Television and the BBC.

If you watch the first season of Showtimes’s fantastic “Episodes,” you’ll have an inkling of what development season is like in Hollywood. For those of you who are unfamiliar with development season or pilot pitching, it’s when TV scribes pitch shows to the studios and networks. From July through October-ish, broadcast networks – ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, and NBC – are open to pitches. Pilot pitching becomes my life this time of year. [Note: The cable networks open at various times throughout the year. You have to catch them when you can.]

TV writers and producers scramble to come up with ideas, get meetings, prep pitches, and sell shows. I love pitching. I love talking about ideas. Everything is pregnant with possibility. The projects you choose to champion are crucial as are any producers, directors, and talent you join forces with. You’re getting engaged – as in “Will you marry me?” If the show goes, you could be married to these people and characters for years. Sometimes, it can feel like a shotgun, drive-thru Vegas marriage. Other times, you find your work-life soul-mate.

I believe the projects you say “no” to are just as important, maybe more so, than the ones you say “yes” to in your career. Whether it’s a story in your own head or a project someone brings to you, what you decide to spend your time on matters greatly. I only champion projects I’m passionate about. Not everyone does that. Some people use a shotgun approach. Some say “yes” to everything, knowing most projects aren’t going to go. Some chase the market, i.e., come up with ideas based on what the networks say they want. These other approaches can be very successful. For me, I want to spend my time on projects I love. And I believe your passion sells the project. I believe you can convince others your idea is amazing only if you truly do think it’s amazing.

Prepping a pitch takes lots of time and effort. You have to break the show, characters, world, everything. Then you have to condense all that information into a cohesive, engaging pitch. Shows and characters take over your life. I think it’s a blast. However, it’s leaving little time for my blog. I hope you’ll stick with me.

Promo for TNT’s drama “Saving Grace” starring Holly Hunter.
Photo courtesy of TNT network and Fox Television Studios.

Coming up on “Glass half-full in Hollywood”

I have some awesome posts for the near future on “Glass half-full in Hollywood.” The final article in the mentor series, “How to be a great mentor,” features showrunner and über-mentor Nancy Miller (“Saving Grace,” “Any Day Now”). I’m planning a series called “First-time filmmakers: how I got the money.” It’ll feature directors talking about how they convinced people to back their first films. I’m also pursuing some cool guest bloggers. So stay tuned!


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