and Cocktail Recipes
By Michael Sherwood
Cocktails using sparkling wine as a base are as old as the beverage itself. Add fruit to anything that fizzes and you’ve got a drink in your hand that’s been a hit for hundreds of years. You have to believe that the monks who invented sparkling wine threw in some local fruit along the way in their experimentation with the fizzy wine they concocted.
By the mid 1800’s the classic ‘Champagne Cocktail’ was all the rage at dinner parties and soirees in genteel society. Today these sparkling cocktails are as hip as ever in wine bars and lounges from coast to coast. Only now you get them served with Thievery Corporation or Ursula 1000 cooing in the background instead of Beethoven or Brahms.
My wife Linda Lausmann; head chef at Sub Rosa and my flavor consultant and I hunkered down for some serious experimenting one evening. We love sparkling wine and were curious how these drinks and cocktails would go over at a party, so we decided to experiment ahead of time. Put on the cocktail music and mix away.
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’. You will find that sparkling wine is an incredibly versatile base to a whole class of mixed drinks and cocktails.
Oregon and Washington create some of the best New World sparkling wine available so grab a bottle from our list and make a date to whip yourself up some fun.
We will take you around the world from Dundee to London to Marrakesh to New York City and highlight some of the classic champagne cocktail recipes and the best of the new wave. There’s no more sophisticated way to get a party off the ground.
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.
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.
Simple syrup, also known as sugar water is a sweet base for everything from cocktails to snow cones. You can make batches of simple syrup that add mint.
Here's how: Put one cup of water in a small saucepan. Add two cups of sugar. Heat to a boil while stirring the mixture. Reduce heat and continue to stir until the sugar dissolves. Cool to room temperature. Find a clean container that will hold at least a cup and a half. Using a funnel, pour the liquid into container. Seal and store in refrigerator indefinitely. Use whenever a recipe calls for simple sugar or simple syrup.
To compliment our champagne cocktail recipes, Sub Rosa present a wildly diverse selection of lounge music for you to enjoy while mixing these drinks. Dial into a spot of dub inflected chill out acid jazz.
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.
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
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.
D'Artagnan: This is smack in the middle of a classic cocktail territory. A splash or less of three or four ingredients takes planning to make repeatedly – on demand.
1 tsp. brandy 1 tsp. Grand Marnier 3 tsp. orange juice 1/2 tsp. simple syrup 5 ounces sparkling wine Orange peel, cut into long thin strips
Chill the first four ingredients in a mixing
glass and strain into a flute glass. Top with the Champagne and
add long strips of orange 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
Maimoun: As made at the Churchill’s Piano Bar in Marrakesh, Morocco. Combine 1/3 ounce Amaretto, 1/3 ounce fig alcohol, 4 ounces of brut sparkling, and a drop of mint syrup. Clearly, this takes a lot of pre-planning as you have to soak figs in vodka and make your own simple syrup with mint but it’s exotic and damn tasty too.
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.