Diet Cokagne: The Inspiration for the French 56Photo by Brett Jordan/Unsplash Drink Features cocktails
In an interview with Stephen Colbert, Tom Hanks started 2023’s first cocktail trend: the Diet Cokagne. The drink, which combines Diet Coke with champagne, has officially gone viral. I first heard about it and tried it on a slow Tuesday shift at the bar where I work. After a patron brought it up, a few of us tried it as Hanks described it: a glass of Diet Coke with about a shot of Champagne in it. We interpreted that suggestion loosely, adding closer to 2 shots.
It had a surprising flavor. That’s not to say it didn’t taste like Diet Coke and Champagne mixed together, but it took on a far fruitier profile than I expected. Depending on the flavor profile of your Champagne (or Cava or Crémant), it might play differently with the mildly spiced and overwhelming, strange sweetness of Coke’s diet-friendly alternative. The standouts from the two (yes, two) times I’ve tried it highlighted floral, spiced and fruity flavors like plum and grape, with a hint of the Diet Coke’s distinct, aspartame-y flavor.
It’s not bad, even though there are definitely plenty of other drinks I’d rather order. But if you’re a beloved actor in your late 60s who doesn’t drink much, this bizarro Four Loko-like concoction might be just what the doctor ordered.
As I said earlier, this isn’t exactly my favorite mixed drink, even if it’s better than I expected. But watching all sorts of people offer their opinions on this confusing concoction made me wonder if there was any way to turn it into a more standard cocktail.
I went with my first idea, a riff on the French 75. The French 75 is a classic cocktail that combines gin, lemon juice, Champagne and a little simple syrup. When I make one, I also like to add some elderflower liqueur like Saint Germain because it adds a nice floral sweetness for the lemon to play off of.
Introducing: The French 56
This take on a French 75 doesn’t stray too far from the 108-year-old classic. Taking inspiration from Hanks’ birth year (1956), the only twist is that it calls for Diet Coke syrup instead of simple syrup.
Before making the French 56, let’s make our Diet Coke Syrup. It’s a pretty simple process: All you need to do is reduce the Diet Coke down to about 1/6 of its original volume. I also added some ginger into the mixture to add a little extra kick to my syrup and some sugar to make the syrup richer, but it’s wholly unnecessary. If you do add ginger, however, be sure to regularly stir your syrup and strain it once it’s reached your desired consistency.
Once the syrup’s done and cooled, gather the following ingredients:
Gin (any gin will do; I used Bombay Sapphire)
A bottle of Champagne, Cava or Crémant (chilled)
Diet Coke syrup
You can also optionally include elderflower liqueur (like Saint Germain) as I did, but it’s also a fairly pricey bottle and not wholly necessary for this recipe. Before you give this cocktail a shot yourself, I highly recommend using a cheaper bottle of traditional-method sparkling wine, as Champagne can be expensive. I used a bottle of Korbel and still enjoyed the cocktail!
Now that you’re ready to build the cocktail, combine two to three ounces of your sparkling wine with an ounce and a half of gin, the juice of half of a lemon and three-quarters of an ounce of Diet Coke syrup in a Champagne flute or other glass of your choice. If you want to include elderflower liqueur, you should cut the gin measure down to three-quarters of an ounce and add three-quarters of an ounce of the elderflower liqueur to your glass. Give it a quick swirl or mix it with a stirring spoon and enjoy!
The French 56 is for fans of the sweeter (and boozier) things in life. It’s a strong, sweet drink with a bittersweet and slightly tart profile. Aside from the syrup, it’s easier to make than an average shaken or stirred cocktail. Next time you sit down to watch a favorite starring Tom Hanks, spice it up a little with the French 56—or just some Diet Cokagne.