Bastille Day, or La Fête Nationale as it’s also known, is an important French holiday that celebrates the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris in 1789. This event shifted the tide of the French Revolution, and soon afterwards the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen was signed, a document that laid out the universal “natural rights” of the French people. Today, Bastille Day is celebrated every July 14th in France and all around the world.
“It’s very important in France,” says Louis Roederer cellar master Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon. “The tradition is fireworks, drinking with friends and celebrating. Most French people celebrate it, but a few don’t because they lost something during the revolution,” he says with a knowing laugh.
There are many ways to celebrate Bastille Day here in America, from enjoying a cocktail at home with a classic French spirit like cognac or triple sec to enjoying a Bastille Day-themed drink and some bites at a French restaurant or bar. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy Bastille Day this month.
Restaurants + Bars
Le Coq Rico, New York
Chef Antoine Westermann opened Le Coq Rico, a poultry-focused bistro in New York City, a few years ago after finding success with the concept in Paris. The menu features a variety of heritage farm-raised chickens and ducks served roasted or stuffed. For Bastille Day, there will be $10 “Frenchies” cocktail specials from 12 pm to 8 pm, including a Bellini made with peach and lavender, and the Sexy Bardot (rosé wine and rose water). Stop by at noon to take a photo with some vintage French cars from the Citroen and Velosolex Club.
Royal Boucherie, Philadelphia
Top Chef winner Nick Elmi’s restaurant Royal Boucherie is located in the Old City area of Philadelphia. During the week of Bastille Day, the restaurant will raffle off prizes like a bottle of ’04 Perrier Jouet, French cheese, and a reservation for two at the restaurant followed by a stay at the Hotel Sofitel. Drink specials will feature the French 75, Kir Royale, various pastis, and a selection of French wines. There will also be a few special nights throughout the week focused on French cheese tasting with the DiBruno brothers and a sampling of rosé and champagne varietals.
Petit Trois, Los Angeles
Chef Ludo Lefebvre owns several restaurants in the Los Angeles area. He has fond memories of growing up in France and celebrating Bastille Day. “Bastille Day meant fireworks and a barbecue with family,” he recalls, during which he’d grill sausages and eat cherry clafouti for dessert. “Living in LA, I still celebrate Bastille Day with close family and friends, and of course, good food and cocktails.” His Petit Trois restaurants will serve a special menu to celebrate this year, along with signature cocktails like the L’ Original (recipe below). At the Sherman Oaks location, the Colonel will be served for dessert, a lemon sorbet made with Grey Goose vodka.
1.5 oz Grey Goose
.25 oz St. Germain liqueur
1/8 oz pastis
.75 oz lemon
.5 oz strawberry syrup
1 oz soda
Served in double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon wheel.
Cognac is the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of French spirits. But considering how intrinsically French it is, the majority of it is exported to other countries. Still, a cognac cocktail is a good way to celebrate. “Bastille Day is a momentous holiday in France, and represents a time [to] reflect and celebrate the unity of the French people,” says Courvoisier national brand ambassador Zahra Bates. “As a brand with a rich history of more than 200 years in France, Courvoisier Cognac continues to honors its French heritage and its code to create a liquid that stands the test of time.”
1 ½ parts Courvoisier V.S.O.P Cognac
1 part dry vermouth
¾ parts Campari Liqueur
Orange for garnish
Pour ingredients in an old fashioned glass, add ice and stir. Garnish with an expressed orange swath.
Hennessy is one of the largest cognac brands in the world, with roots dating all the way back to 1765 when it was founded by Irishman Richard Hennessy. For Bastille Day, go ahead and splurge on some XO or even Paradis Imperial, one of the Hennessy’s premium expressions. Or take national brand ambassador Jordan Bushnell’s advice and make a cocktail. “For Bastille Day, I’ve always enjoyed the French 75, which is said to be named after the French 75mm cannon from World War I because it packs a powerful punch,” he says. “The combination of Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège and champagne is beautiful and makes a great celebratory cocktail to honor the strength of the French people.”
1.5 oz Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège Cognac
.5 oz simple syrup
.75 oz fresh lemon juice
Sparkling wine or champagne
Build in a flute, top with champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.
Ricard is the sister spirit to Pernod, a pastis or licorice-flavored aperitif. “The heritage of Ricard is one with rich French roots dating back to 1932 when the spirit was created by Paul Ricard in Marseille,” says brand director Patrick Caufield. It can be enjoyed neat, with a bit of water (which makes it turn opaque), or used in a variety of cocktails to add a bright hit of anise flavor.
1 part Ricard
1 part Plymouth Gin
.75 parts lemon juice
1 part cucumber juice
Add ingredients to highball glass full of crushed ice. Swizzle together, then garnish with basil, tarragon, and lavender.
Citadelle Gin was created by Maison Ferrand master distiller Alexandre Gabriel, who wanted to put his stills to use during the off-season when cognac distillation is not allowed. It’s created from French wheat, flavored with 19 different botanicals (including juniper, coriander, and cinnamon), and makes for a great French-themed gin and tonic. “Bastille Day is not only the end of centuries of oppression on the French people, it is also the opening of the minds towards science, new taste, new cultures,” says Gabriel. “Fine gin is not just for nobles, it is also for everyone that has a taste for it.”
Gin and Tonic
1 part Citadelle Gin
3 parts tonic water
Chill a large balloon glass. Fill the glass with large, clear ice cubes to the top.
Add gin and three parts tonic water. Cut lemon peel, and express on top of the glass and around the rim, and place in the glass.
Grand Marnier is an orange-flavored spirit made by blending cognac with orange liqueur. It can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails like a margarita. Master blender Patrick Raguenaud’s family has lived in the Cognac region of France since the 17th century, well before the storming of the Bastille. Raguenaud likes to celebrate the holiday with a picnic. “During lunch, I like to enjoy a Grand Tonic with Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge,” he says. “It is very refreshing since the weather for La Fête Nationale is typically very warm.” He ends the day with a neat pour of Cuvée 1880, a premium expression from Grand Marnier.
1 parts Grand Marnier
1 parts Martini Bianco
.5 parts sherry
1 mint sprig
Shake ingredients together in cocktail shaker on ice, and pour in glass over crushed ice. Garnish with lemon zest and a mint sprig.
Cointreau, a type of triple sec, was first founded in Angers, France in 1849. This orange liqueur is made from both bitter and sweet varieties of orange and has been used for years in classic cocktails like the Margarita, Cosmopolitan, and Sidecar. Unlike Grand Marnier, Cointreau is clear, as there is no other spirit blended in. This makes it a very versatile cocktail component that remains popular with bartenders everywhere.
Cointreau Sangrita Michelada
.75 oz Cointreau
.75 oz lime
1 oz grapefruit juice
4 dashes Tapatio hot sauce
Lone Star beer (orother regional lager)
Build in pint glass, add two ice cubes, fill with Lonestar. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Chambord is a raspberry liqueur that is produced just a few hours outside of Paris in the Loire Valley. The legend goes that it was originally made for French royalty who were visiting the valley, but nowadays you don’t have to hold a noble title to enjoy it. Chambord is made from ingredients that include raspberries, blackberries, Madagascar vanilla, Moroccan citrus peel, honey and XO cognac.
10ml Chambord Liqueur
Any fizz you fancy
Pour Chambord into flute glass, top with fizz, finish with a raspberry garnish.
Brenne French Single Malt Whisky
While obviously by no means as popular as Scotch, French single malt whiskey is indeed a growing category. Brenne is distilled in Cognac in alembic copper pot stills from a mash bill of 100 percent organic barley. It’s then aged in French Limousin oak and finished in cognac barrels. The palate has notes of flowers and sweet candy, with soft hints of banana and spice just underneath.
2 oz. Brenne French Single Malt Whisky
1 oz. vermouth
A dash of bitters
1 Luxardo cherry
Add Brenne, vermouth, and bitters to shaker. Shake or stir with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with Luxardo cherry.
Grey Goose Vodka
Grey Goose is known as French vodka, but it was actually created by Sidney Frank, an American drinks importer, in the 1990s. He partnered with Francois Thibault, a cellar master at a cognac house, and sold it for a tidy sum. Grey Goose is now owned by Bacardi but produced in France. “Above everything else, Bastille Day is about celebrating community with family, friends, and neighbors,” says Thibault. “We always serve my favorite summer cocktail, Le Grand Fizz. It’s very refreshing and goes with perfectly with seasonal, light food.”
Le Grand Fizz
1 1/2 parts Grey Goose Vodka
1 part St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/2 part freshly squeezed lime (approx. half a lime)
3 lime wedges
2 parts chilled Perrier
Build in an oversized cabernet wine glass with lots of ice. Add Grey GooseVodka and St-Germain. Then squeeze fresh lime and discard. Top with chilled Perrier. Stir and garnish with fresh lime wedges.
Bastille 1789 Whisky
Bastille 1789 seems tailor-made for celebrating Bastille Day; the name literally marks the storming of the Bastille. This whiskey is distilled in Cognac from barley and wheat in alembic pot stills and aged for five to seven years in Limousin oak, cherry wood, and Acacia barrels. There are two expressions available, a blended whisky and a single malt.
Napoleon's Sweet Tea
2oz Bastille 1789 Whisky
¾ oz lemon juice
4oz iced tea
Combine all ingredients in a mason jar over rocks. Garnish with a lemon (can also be turned into a pitcher).