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#ThatTranslatorCanCook week 44: French 75

It’s been a long week, so another cocktail recipe seems like a fitting end. This time it’s the French 75, known in French as the… French 75. It features champagne, gin, sugar syrup and plenty of lemon juice, making it a delightfully refreshing drink.


My source ‘recipe’ is incredibly short. The shortest I think I’ve done as part of this challenge. But even the shortest of texts seems to provide some sort of talking point.

A lack of logical order – and how to deal with this in a CAT tool

This is something that comes up time and again in recipe translation from French to English. English recipes tend to follow a linear, chronological order. For instance, when it comes to baking, the first instruction is often to preheat the oven. You can generally expect to follow a recipe in the order it is written. French recipes don’t seem to feel the need to do this.

This is especially apparent in this recipe, which is made of up of just four steps.

Below is a rough summary of each step (note, not an actual translation, for copyright reasons).

Step one explains you should make the drink in the glass you’ll serve it in, rather than a cocktail shaker for instance. Step two involves adding the main ingredients to the glass. Step three specifies the type of glass you should use. Step four explains different options for garnishing.

Now, surely, logic dictates that step three should appear at the beginning of the recipe, don’t you think?

Clearly, the recipe is short. It’s easy to quickly read through and step three is not hard to spot. Also, the website does include an equipment section which indicates the type of glass to be used. So it’s far from being a major issue. Neither can we draw an overall generalisation of all French recipes based on this. That said, a lack of chronological order does seem to be a recurring theme in my experience. And I’m not alone. A few months ago, I read an interesting interview with an experienced French to English translator in this field who commented on this phenomenon. Unfortunately, I can’t put my hands on it right now. If anyone has it handy, please feel free to send it over!

So then the solution is easy – simply change the order of the instructions, right? Yes, you can certainly do that. But for translators out there using a CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tool, this poses another problem. (Non-translators, you might want to look away now, technical jargon incoming…)

If you change the order of the text, adding or removing details in your target text segment, that isn’t there in your source text segment, then it is no longer an accurate ‘translation’. This might not bother you, but it could cause problems or frustrations down the line, for instance, when you receive translation suggestions from your TM that require a lot of adjustment.

I’m not sure what the answer is to this problem – and am more than open to suggestions! Some may say, don’t use a CAT tool for this type of work, where more flexibility is required. But I disagree. Recipes are, in the main, pretty formulaic and well-suited to a CAT tool.

‘Cooking’ – or preparing

This one was easy peasy. The only difficulty was trying to create some sort of ‘orange twist’ to adorn my glass, which was far from a resounding success. But the drink itself was delicious – zesty and refreshing.

Picture of the French 75 cocktail, served and garnished with a strawberry and orange twist

Recipe and substitution ideas

This BBC recipe looks nice and straightforward.

In terms of substitutions, you could swap sugar syrup for some honey. You could also swap the champagne for a more budget-friendly alternative (I used prosecco).

Next week

I’m planning to feature a guest post with a regional sweet treat.

94 views2 comments


Hannah Lawrence
Hannah Lawrence
Jun 22, 2020

Good idea Mike, it was delicious, and like you say, not taxing at all. Perfect for a celebration! Ah, interesting to know about the history of the name – must confess I hadn't looked into it! You're right, not such a pleasant association.


Mike Hanson
Mike Hanson
Jun 21, 2020

It sounds absolutely delicious and I think I might celebrate my birthday next month with this cocktail (it's less taxing than baking....). :-)

Sadly, it seems the name comes from a (75mm) World War I gun... I had assumed it came from Paris (département no. 75), which would be a happier association.

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