Friday, March 6, 2015

Sparkling wine cocktails

Sparkling wine has been used in cocktails for well over 150 years. The first reference I know of comes from 1862 in the Bon Vivant's Companion. Though sparkling wines are nearly 500 years old, possibly older if you account for the Chinese, they weren't really mixed. Bubbles were and are a sign of freshness and quality. They still are in many countries, especially in Europe. Flat water really doesn't exist for consumption. Everything is bubbly, even the apple juice. Bubbles mean it's clean and healthy. Healthy doesn't mean it's no fun though.

Champagne Cocktail
Sugar cube, bitters, champagne
Place a sugar cube on a cocktail napkin. Soak the cube in bitters until it is fully colored and is spilling over onto the napkin. Place the soaked cube in a champagne flute and fill with Champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist
The champagne cocktail is, of course, following in the tradition of what a cocktail originally was. The original whiskey cocktail was just whiskey, sugar, and bitters. It has since been dubbed the Old Fashioned. But there were a number of cocktails: the brandy cocktail, gin cocktail, and our Champagne cocktail. Fortunately, this cocktail has held the test of time. This cocktail can be made with simple syrup and a few dashes of bitters, but it's not that elegant a presentation. With a nice course cube sitting at the bottom of a cocktail you get the bubbles flowing forth from every bump. The original is also said to include 1/3 oz. of brandy.


French 75
1oz Gin, 1/2oz Simple Syrup, 1/2oz Lemon, 3oz Champagne
Add the first three ingredients to a shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled and strain into a champagne glass. Fill with the remaining champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist.
This drink is named after the famous artillery piece. The cannon was called by some the first piece of modern artillery. It was invented at the end of the 19th century and could fire 15 rounds a minute up to five miles away. The drink was created in 1915 in Paris by the great Harry MacElhone. The drink was said to have such a kick it felt like you'd been hit by a shell from the cannon. Some people equate this to a scaled Tom Collins with the soda substituted for sparkling wine, typically champagne. I find that is a pretty apt description though these days many people use smaller proportions for the first three ingredients allowing the wine to shine through a bit more rather than the lemon and sugar. 

Mimosa
2 1/2 Orange Juice, 2 1/2 Sparkling Wine
Both ingredients should be kept chilled during storage. Simply mix equal parts orange juice and sparkling wine into a champagne flute and serve. Garnish with an optional quarter slice of orange or a strawberry. 
This has become the quintessential brunch drink. Sparkling wine and citrus play very nicely together. orange juice has simply been jazzed up a bit. do be sure not to use a very pulpy orange juice as that can create a very off texture for your guests. This drink is naturally not too strong; it's effectively a half glass of wine. Some people stiffen it up a bit by adding a half show of Cointreau which doesn't dramatically change the flavor but certainly adds a bit more kick. A more common variation is known as the Grand Mimosa. This is a mimosa with a half ounce of Grand Marnier floated on top. The orange flavors go well together, and the french made cognac in the Grand Marnier pairs with a french made sparkling wine, namely Champagne. 

Aperol  Spritz
3 oz. Prosecco, 1 oz. Soda, 1 oz. Aperol
Fill a white wine glass about 3/4 full with ice. Add the ingredients and throw in a slice or two of orange for good measure. 
This is a fun little number and an amazing summertime drink. It's similar to a sparkling sangria with a light bitter note. This is actually one of the only standard recipes I know that uses ice in a wine glass or with wine at all for that matter. This drink can be made with many other liqueurs in place of Aperol, such as St Germain, Hum, Midori, or even an amaretto. I find that Aperol has a light enough flavor to not dominate the drink and let the wine shine just enough. It also has a beautiful color and the orange note just makes it so much more summer.

Special mention to: Kir Royale, Bellini, Death in the Afternoon

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