Champagne is not just for launching ships and New Year’s Eve. As any good bartender knows, this sparkling bubbly wine of wedding toasts and anniversary celebrations need not be reserved only for special occasions. While sweeter sparkling wines like a Doux or a Spumante are not true champagnes, a good mixologist can sweeten up a Sec to mollify its dry severity by using other ingredients to concoct a cocktail of that most elegant of celebratory wines.
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Bartending may not be rocket science or pharmacology, and while many mixologists learn on the job through experience, trial, error and experimentation, others get a leg up from those who have had the luxury of studying the craft in a scholastic environment. Kelli of Bartenders Academy of Waterbury is one such student who, although young, has such a gift that she has become an instructor in her own right. Here are a few of her suggestions for how to dress up your bubbly.
The French 75
Named for a famous French artillery piece, this combination was brought back to the States by WW1 Doughboys. Like its namesake, it packs quite a kick. Although out of fashion in most modern bars, a mixologist who has done their homework and studied the history of their trade will not need to be told how to make this classic grandfather of all champagne cocktails.
- 1 1/2 ounces of cognac (preferably VS or VSOP)
- 1/2 ounce of lemon juice (fresh squeezed, of course)
- 1/2 ounce of basic or “simple” sugar syrup*
- 3 ounces of champagne
- Ice (enough to fill a shaker)
*Simple syrup must be prepared in advance and chilled. It is, simply, one cup of sugar dissolved in one cup of boiling water. Stir until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved, set aside to cool and then chill.
Fill the shaker with ice. Add in the Cognac, lemon juice and syrup. Shake well and strain into a martini glass. Top with champagne (this amount varies if using a coupe, which holds 8 3/4 ounces, or a flute, which only holds 6 or 7 ounces; a martini glass holds only 5 or 6 ounces, so adjust accordingly).
Mimosa (Traditional, Bonus or Raspberry)
What summer brunch would be complete without the famed mimosa? Named for the golden flower that blooms on the French Riviera, this simple combination is an elegant way to get one’s vitamin C. It is also a good way to ensure that champagne left over from last night’s celebration does not go to waste.
- 3 to 4 ounces of champagne
- 3 to 4 ounces of orange juice
- 1/2 ounce of Triple Sec or Chambord
Simply mix the Champagne and orange juice and pour into a flute.
For a drink with less of a punch, alter the proportions in favor of more juice to less champagne (most brunch bars mix one part champagne to three parts orange juice, rather than half and half). Sugaring the rim of the glass is also an option, although a risky one as if not done properly it can give a grainy texture to the drink.
For an extra kick, add the Triple Sec (an orange-flavored liqueur) or the Chambord (a raspberry-flavored liqueur), but never both!
More desert than cocktail, the champagne cobbler requires a bit of work known as “muddling” – with a “muddler” – a bartender’s tool that looks like a miniature baseball bat. The flat end is used like a pestle to smash or “muddle” the ingredients.
- 1 slice of an orange
- 1 lemon wedge
- 1 wedge of pineapple (skinless)
- 3/4 ounces of maraschino liqueur
- 4 ounces of champagne
- Flamed orange peel
First, all of the fruit should be fresh. Second, be sure that the skin and other little brown bits have been removed from the pineapple wedge. Now, combine the orange, lemon and pineapple and the maraschino liqueur in a large bar glass and muddle them with a muddler. Add ice and champagne to nearly fill the glass, stir gently and strain into a champagne flute. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.
A “kir” is a French aperitif made with white wine and a black currant liqueur known as Crème de Cassis; a kir royal is made with champagne instead of white wine. Most American bars use Chablis as a basis for a traditional kir, or use a sparkling wine in the uptown or royal version. But a true kir royal uses the queen of wine – champagne.
- Champagne (enough to fill the glass 3/4 full)
- 1/2 an ounce of Crème de Cassis
Pour the champagne into the glass, filling it 3/4 of the way to the top. Float the Crème de Cassis on top (do NOT stir or shake).
Mojitos are all the rage these days, and for parties, are made not by the glass but by the pitcher. Rum, simple syrup, mint leaves and springs are de rigueur for any mojito, but this new classic can be ennobled by crowning it with champagne.
- 1.5 cups of simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, made ahead and chilled, see above)
- 1 1/2 cups of mint leaves
- 6 limes, cut into wedges
- 2 cups of light rum
- 3 cups of champagne
- Cracked ice
- 12 mint springs for garnish
Make the simple syrup ahead of time and chill. Put the mint leaves into a pitcher and pour in the syrup and lime wedges and muddle. Add rum and stir. Strain into another pitcher.
Fill mojito glasses (tall glasses) with cracked ice and pour in the strained mixture. Top with champagne. Garnish with mint springs.
Related: Top Sommeliers In Connecticut
Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.