Now that you know the different kinds of champagne there are, the ‘proper’ way to drink champagne, and how to store champagne, let’s get down to busines. Cocktail business. What are some great champagne drinks you can make (keep in mind that there is no way you can mess any of these drinks up; champagne is so delicious and refreshing, it goes with almost every mixer you can think of)?
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite twist on a champagne drink. It has no official name, but it’s basically just raspberry ginger ale topped to the rim with the champagne of your choice… very simple and deee-lishous. While there are almost 200 drinks containing champagne, here are a few of them that are classic champagne drinks, that are easy to prepare and are party favorites.
In the bar business, a mere drink turns into a cocktail when the mixture starts to get more complicated and the mixing of flavors more subtle and sophisticated. Here are a few true champagne cocktails to choose from.
Here’s the classic ‘Champagne Cocktail’ from the Metropolitan Hotel, New York City circa 1935:
1 cube sugar Angostura bitters Chilled champagne
Soak sugar cube with a couple of good splashes of Angostura bitters and place them in the bottom a large champagne flute. Fill slowly with sparkling wine. Garnish with a lemon twist.
The sugar and bitters offered a nice counterpoint to one another as the sugar cube slowly melts. Try one; you can see why this drink is so popular. This is seriously easy to make for large groups too.
For a stronger drink add a ‘float’ of cognac according to the 1862 version of Jerry Thomas’ “How to Mix Drinks – The Bon-Vivant’s Companion”. Today you add a splash of Campari instead of the cognac and you’ve got a ‘Goodnight Kiss’
Here’s some other classics:French 75: Shake with cracked ice, 1-1/2 ounces of dry gin, fresh juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/2 tsp. powdered sugar. Pour into glass with ice cubes, fill with sparkling wine. Add a twist of lemon peel.
Queen’s Cousin: We made this and forgot the bitters the first time. It was great. Next time we added the bitters. It was interesting both ways, but the bitters add that extra kick. Go light on the bitters though. One drop is fine. Three is too many. Combine 1 ounce vodka; 1/2 ounce Grand Marnier; 1/2 ounce of fresh lime juice and 1 tsp. Triple Sec Gently add 3 ounces of well-chilled sparkling wine. Top with 2 dashes Angostura bitters.
Bellini: The classic Bellini was ‘invented’ at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy in 1931. It was simply one third Procecco; two thirds nectar from several blended white peaches and some simple syrup. It’s a little time consuming to make, but it will take you back to a time when Ernest Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis, and Orson Welles enjoyed this drink canal side in Venice while the USA was locked in Prohibition. While you can use a Brut with some success, you might be bold and try something like Tualatin Estates Semi Sparkling Muscat as the base. FYI: Procecco is a light, dry and only slightly fizzy Italian sparkling wine.
Here are a few of our favorite variations on the classic Bellini recipe.
Bellini Simple2 or 3 white peaches puréed (you can use yellow peaches, if white are not available)1 teaspoon raspberry puree or Grenadine1 bottle chilled Procecco or dry sparkling wine.
Place the ripe peaches in a small blender and purée until totally smooth. This can be done well in advance and then kept in the fridge. Spoon one and a half tablespoons into chilled glasses, along with two or three drops of the raspberry purée and slowly top up with Prosecco, stirring as you pour. The raspberry purée adds a delightful blush to the drink.
Bellini Complex2 ounces peach nectar1 tsp. fresh lemon juice1 ounces peach schnappsCrushed Ice4 ounces chilled, dry sparkling wine
Mix the peach nectar, lemon juice and schnapps in a chilled glass. Add half a cup (or more) of crushed ice, stir, and add the sparkling wine. Make sure to pour the peach juice into the glass first. May be prepared in a blender to produce a frozen drink – that’s what they do at Harry’s. Champagne and Peach Slushie. (Serves 2).
Easy Sparkling Drinks
Many champagne drinks are made simply by adding a splash [1/2 oz. or more] of some flavoring. These examples are meant to be made quickly with one or two basic ingredients and a lemon twist to garnish.
Kir Royale: You will find this drink made at any French bistro as you walk about St. Germaine. Crème de cassis with wine is simply a kir. With sparkling wine it is called a Kir Royale.
Pour sparkling wine into a large chilled wine glass, add 1/2 ounce of crème de cassis [black currant liqueur], and stir gently. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel. You might try the raspberry liqueur, Chambord as a substitute for cassis.
Mimosa: A Mother’s Day brunch standby. Pour 5 ounces of sparkling wine and 1 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice into almost any wine glass and add small orange wedge or slice for garnish. Try a mandarin orange for a variation on the theme. Fresh squeezed orange juice and a good quality sparkling make all the difference in this drink.
Pimm’s Royale: Pimm’s Cup is a gin-based spirit flavored with fruit liqueurs and herbs. The Pimm’s Royale is made with sparkling wine, a splash of Pimm’s and the traditional fresh cucumber spear. This is a great summertime drink. Very dry and crisp.
The Ghost: 5 ounces sparkling wine and 1/2 ounce Midori (melon liqueur). This one is very simple and utterly delicious. The fruitiness of the melon is a great foil to the sharpness of the sparkling wine.
Champear: 5 ounces of sparkling wine with a ‘float’ of Clear Creek pear brandy. To ‘float’ a distillate, gently pour as a top layer once the sparkling has quit foaming. Don’t mix it. Simply allow the distillate to float on top of the sparkling wine. Your first mouthful is a beautiful mix of aromatic pear, the fire of the spirits and the crispness of the sparkling wine. Pure Oregon in a glass.
Black Velvet: Being from Beervana – the Pacific Northwest, you’d expect to see a beer and sparkling mix in our list. The classic recipe for a Black Velvet is to half fill the glass with the stout and tilt to the side, whilst pouring the champagne in gently, trying to create as little foaming as possible. We used an aged Imperial Porter from Full Sail for the beer.
The 50/50 blend was a bit more beer than we liked, but with a healthy first sip and a refill with sparkling – the drink blended out just right. Linda commented that this drink “would never go down in history” as a classic sparkling cocktail. Au contraire. The Black Velvet is nearly 150 years old. It was ‘invented’ at the Brook’s Club, London in 1861 and was served as the nation mourned the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s Prince Consort.
Poinsettia: This one is awfully pretty and not too difficult. Five ounces sparkling wine, 1/2 ounce cranberry juice, 1/4 ounce triple sec and twist of lime. We loved the mix of fruity cranberry and the complex orange flavors of triple sec – very tasty.
Wrap UpTo some purists, the mixing of champagne with anything might seem unthinkable. For cocktail lovers, sparkling wine becomes a choice ingredient with which to add other interesting flavors. We found that the simple sparkling drinks were the easiest to make and the one ingredient mix allowed both the sparkling and the flavoring to shine through. The Kir Royale, the Black Velvet, the Champear and the classic Champagne Cocktail were the hands down favorites. The simple Bellini is great for a party. You can puree the peaches ahead of time and merely add it to the flute before adding the sparkling. Quite delicious. It is definitely worth giving champagne cocktails a whirl this summer.
If you are going to be making cocktails, you should know how to whip out a few quick lemon twists. Prep these before a party an hour or two in advance. Cover and refrigerate until you need them. Or if you are a pro, slice and dice on demand and make them fresh.
For the record, lemon twists are made from the entire peel – the yellow skin and the pithy white part underneath. Simply peel half a lemon with your thumb, like you would an orange, then cut several twists from the peel. A regulation twist is a little over an inch long and a quarter inch wide.