Champagne is a beverage that we bring out only at special celebrations. It was the French royalty at the beginning of the 18th century that popularized the trend of drinking this sparkling beverage. It became perceived (with marketing help from the grape growers in the Champagne region of France) as a drink of the affluent, so the people of the middle and working classes only would drink it for special occasions. Even though champagne and other sparkling wines have become fairly easy to find and purchase at a modest price, it is still something we associate with infrequent celebrations and special events. We see it when sports teams win championships, when couples get married, maybe when someone smashes a bottle of it to christen a boat, and of course, New Year’s Eve. People sip it straight out of a flute or a coupe if they are feeling a little more vintage vibe. What you do not see much of is people mixing it into a cocktail.
A mimosa at breakfast is typically the extent of people’s experience with a champagne based cocktail. Possibly a bellini for brunch or a light lunch drink. There are so many more cocktails you can make with champagne as the base, playing off the general sweetness and effervescence of it. The one thing you always want to keep in mind: champagne is very carbonated. Take care when you are mixing the ingredients together. Also, champagne is a sparkling wine specific to the Champagne region of France. It belongs to the larger category of sparkling white wines where you will find cava (Spain), prosecco (Italy), and sekt (Germany). For the purposes of the recipes, I am going to use what the original source calls for. You can use other sparkling wines, but the taste will vary accordingly.
Champagne Cocktails 101
Here are a few cocktails you can make with champagne and common liquors, or other mixers you may have at your party.
1.5 oz. peach schnapps
4-6 oz. prosecco
Pour the peach schnapps into a flute, and then add champagne. Stir gently, and garnish with a peach slice.
Before all of you bartenders and other cocktail experts leap upon me, a traditional bellini is made with white peach puree, not peach schnapps. If you can find the ripe peaches in the store, or premade peach puree, substitute that for the peach schnapps. I have even
seen this recipe called a Dirty Bellini.
2 oz. orange juice
.25 oz orange liqueur (triple sec, Grand Marnier, etc.)
4-6 oz. champagne
Pour the orange juice into the flute, and then add champagne. The orange liqueur is added last, as a float, and is optional if you do not have it available. It will also not be bad to have on New Year’s Day.
Stout (Guinness is the traditional choice)
Add equal parts stout and champagne into a pilsner glass. It is a bigger trick that you might think. I will usually put the champagne in first, and then add the stout VERY slowly, keeping a close eye on the bubbling of the champagne. When Prince Albert passed away, the whole country went into mourning with Queen Victoria. Even the champagne, with the help from Guinness, was black with sorrow.
Champagne Cocktails 201
Very popular, you may need to purchase a few specialty ingredients, or make a few extra preparations for these cocktails.
.5 oz Crème de cassis
6 oz. champagne
Pour a standard pour of champagne in a flute and add the crème de cassis. Crème de cassis is a black currant flavored liqueur. A kir can also be made in a similar fashion, substituting a dry white wine for the champagne.
Sugar cube soaked in Angostura bitters (2 dashes of bitters should do)
6 oz. champagne
Splash of cognac (optional)
Place the sugar cube in the bottom of the flute. Pour the champagne over the cube, allowing the sugar and bitters to dissolve. The cognac float at the end is more popular in England than it is here. This is another notable vintage cocktail, something you will see mentioned in more than a few black and white movies. Talkies, as the kids call them.
3 oz. cranberry juice
1 oz. orange liqueur
3 oz. champagne
Pour the cranberry juice and orange liqueur into a flute and stir together. Add the champagne and enjoy. It is seasonal, festive, and delicious.
Champagne Cocktails 301
These are going to take liqueurs that are a little more obscure or expensive, and much more preparation.
They may be a little less known generally, but have a place in cocktail history.
Death in the Afternoon
1 oz. absinthe or Pernod
5 oz. champagne
Pour the absinthe into a flute, and then add champagne. Absinthe balances out the sweet champagne with a hint of wormwood and licorice flavors. Ernest Hemmingway, who is credited with the creation of the drink, also suggests in the recipe to enjoy three to five in the afternoon. This probably explains quite a bit about his work.
1 oz. gin
.5 oz. lemon juice
1.5 tsp. simple syrup
4 oz. champagne
In a mixing glass, combine the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Shake it, and strain the contents into a Collins glass over ice. Top it off with the champagne and gently stir it. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice. If you are not a fan of gin, you can substitute it with cognac. This cocktail got its name because it was said it felt like you were hit with a French 75mm field gun, a staple of the French army during World War I and the first piece of modern artillery. Boom.
1.5 oz. bourbon
.5 oz. orange liqueur
7 dashes Angostura bitters
7 dashes Peychaud bitters
4 oz. champagne
Mix the bourbon, bitters, and orange liqueur briefly over ice, and strain into a flute. Top off the mixture with champagne. It was created at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville just before Prohibition hit, and the original recipe for this cocktail was lost. It was found recently and brought back to life, with a shocking amount of bitters that offer some balance to the sweetness of the champagne, bourbon, and orange.
You know champagne is going to be in the mix on December 31st. With a little more planning and a few more purchases, you can have a wide range of cocktails available that can be made with that single ingredient. Of course, there is nothing wrong with just enjoying it as it comes out of the bottle. If you enjoy a little too much of it (since you will not be driving, right?), we have a few remedies for the hangover on January 1st.
Have a wonderful and safe New Year’s Eve, and a prosperous 2013.