I have been drinking French 75s as I cook lately (that is, when I’m not working my way stoically through local budget semi-dry Rieslings — don’t ask). They make me tremendously happy: bubbly, giddy, tipsy, all that. In my continuing intrepid journeys into food blogging, I came a recipe for roasted lemon syrup in a forum somewhere, and I got so immediately excited I rushed out to turn all my lemons into roasted, sugary mush. Roasted lemon syrup, I thought, would make a fantastic French 75!
Roasted Lemon Syrup
Roasted lemons really are lovely. The recipe is easy and has give. You’ll want to quarter 6-8 lemons and place them peel-side down in a roasting pan (a smaller, say
8×8, Pyrex dish with deep sides is best). Pour a cup of sugar over the lemons and then almost completely cover the lemons with water (this is why you need the deep dish). Carefully place in an oven preheated to 400 degrees, and roast until you have some black tips on the lemon and the sugar is syrupy and golden, about 45 minutes. Note that the picture has lemons with the peel-side up — don’t do this, as it makes the peels too hard and dark.
When the lemons are roasted (and it’s not an exact science, so just judge by sight), cool them down a bit, then pour all the syrup into a food processor bowl Remove all the flesh from the lemon quarters and add to the processor bowl. Chop up a couple of the quartered rinds, too, for some bitterness, and add to the bowl. Puree until chopped to little bits, then strain in a medium-coarse mesh strainer, pressing on the solids to release all the liquids you can. Pour into a clean bottle and store in the refrigerator. I wouldn’t keep this as long as simple syrup, but it can keep for a while.
You can use this syrup in drinks and in spritzers.
But Do Not Use It in a French 75
I was so excited by the idea of a roasted lemon French 75 that I skimmed a bit off the top without straining and added 3/4 oz or so to my standard mix instead of the lemon juice and simple syrup. Sounds great, right?
Nooooooooooo. The sweetness of the champagne clashed with the bitterness of the lemon peel and ate up the sugar smoothness of the syrup, making it taste like saccharine. I added more syrup, thinking the sugar balance was off, and it oozed down the sides the the flute, leaving a trail of slime. Worse yet, the bubbles in the champagne put the bits and chunks of lemon pulp into motion, circulating them like a monstrous brew of polluted stream, over and over, in my glass. And the color — o horrors, the color — it was not the pretty lemon yellow of a French 75 but a darker, muddier sludge that resembled nothing but some revolting bile.
Bottoms up, I said, and gamely drank it down. Looked like bile, tasted just as bad. So I post it herewith, so the entire French 75-drinkin’ blogosphere (all two of you) can learn from the error of my ways. Save your roasted lemons for something else: a French 75 insists on fresh squeezed.