This post comes to us courtesy of Maria Hunt, author and blogger at The Bubbly Girl.
Whenever one opens a bottle of bubbly, it presents a dilemma: Should this pristine and effervescent wine be enjoyed au naturel or mixed up in a cocktail? As the author of The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion (Clarkson Potter, 2009), it’s no surprise that I often choose the latter.
I love the way sparkling wine and champagne can transform and, to my mind, elevate a cocktail. Bubbly has a natural acidity that brightens other flavors; it softens the taste of strong spirits, and the bubbles add delightful hint of fizziness and texture.
Actually, I’m not the only one who thinks that a splash of Champagne improves cocktails. Back in the nascent cocktail era of the mid-1800s, the Champagne Cocktail – created by subbing champagne for spirit in a mixture that also included aromatic bitters – was known as the first “improved cocktail.” Cocktail historian David Wondrich says it was also known as “Chorus Girl’s Milk,” as these high-spirited ladies has a penchant for Champagne.
The Champagne Cocktail is classically made with Angostura bitters, but lately I like to mix it up with other flavored bitters such as Fee Brothers peach or cherry or Regan’ s Orange, now available in gourmet markets.
3 to 4 drops aromatic bitters
1 sugar cube
5 to 6 ounces brut Champagne or Cava
Sprinkle the bitters on the sugar cube, then drop the cube in the bottom of a champagne flute. Top with chilled champagne. Twist the lemon ¬¬peel over the glass then drop it in or rest it on the rim. Serves 1.
Red Ginger Fizz
When I started experimenting with mixing sparkling cocktails, I found that they could create a beverage that perfectly captured a season. In springtime, I love mixing bubbly with the first organic apricots I find at the farmers’ market, and summer strawberries and herbs have starred in some of my favorite potions. For a holiday party one year, my friend Jennifer and I created a pomegranate juice and Prosecco cocktail. We dubbed it the Lava Lamp for the way the fresh pomegranate seeds bobbed up and down on the bubbles. This is the next incarnation, updated with a spicy blast of ginger.
1 ounce pomegranate juice
1 ounce Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
4 ounces brut Champagne or Prosecco
3 pomegranate seeds, for garnish
Add the pomegranate juice and Domaine de Canton to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well chilled, then strain into a champagne flute. Top with the chilled champagne or Prosecco. Drop in the pomegranate seeds. Serves 1.
Sparkling Pisco Punch
Part of what makes cocktails fun is discovering the stories and history behind them. The Pisco Punch is a cocktail that has real history in San Francisco. For visitors to the city in the mid-1800’s, this potent mix of the clear Peruvian grape brandy called pisco and pineapple was the drink to order – kind of like going to Venice for Bellinis or to Tijuana for margaritas. People overindulged in Pisco Punches to the point that in 1856, police tried to limit consumption to one a day. I’m sure that measure was quite effective.
2 ounces pineapple juice
½ ounce Encanto Pisco
½ ounce Limoncello
1 tsp. egg white
2 ounces dry Champagne or Cava
Add the pineapple juice, pisco, Limoncello and egg white to a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for 60 seconds, to get a nice froth on the egg whites. Then add a couple pieces of ice to the shaker and shake again to chill the mixture. Pour the champagne or cava into a coupe style glass, then top with the contents of the shaker. Serves 1.
In the next post, I’ll share ideas for pairing party foods with champagne and sparkling wine along with a simple recipe.
Read more at The Bubbly Girl, my champagne, sparkling wine and cocktails entertaining site.
Photo Credit: Brooke Lydecker
About the author: Maria Hunt is the author of The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion (Clarkson Potter, 2009) and the hostess of The Bubbly Girl, a champagne and sparkling wine and cocktails entertaining site.