The champagne cocktail is a classic libation to ring in the new year. It also works wonderfully at holiday parties with its festive hue. AJ Rathbun, GoodLife Report's resident mixologist and author of Champagne Cocktails: 50 Cork-Popping Concoctions and Scintillating Sparklers has provided us with some interesting ways to jazz up your champagne toast.
If you want to trace the word sparkle back to the Old Norse sparkr, I certainly won’t peep about it. Or, if you go back to the Old English spearca, and want to deliver a point, I’ll follow your point and even read the footnotes. If you, perhaps, would rather debate the relative merits of how this sparkling drink was once shaken a bit and so should be still, I’ll listen calmly to your arguments and nod my noggin reflectively even if I do happen to disagree. When reclining in two large chairs at the edge of the dance floor, if you’d rather posit that Peychaud’s bitters or Angostura bitters or your very own house bitters goes better than orange bitters in this, I’ll weigh out each possibility, one glass at a time, while you state your liquid position. Truth be told, I’ll be happy to contemplate any of your talking points on this simple and simply delicious classic, as long as you don’t let my glass run dry, of course.
Champagne Cocktail (classic)
1 sugar cube
3 dashes Agostura bitters
Chilled brut Champagne (or dry sparkling wine)
Lemon Twist for Garnish
1. Add sugar cube to flute glass in any manner you see fit. Add 3 dashes* of angostura bitters over cube.
2. Fill the flute almost to the top with Champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist and serve immediately.
* A dash is typically 1-3 drops depending on your technique
Champagne Cocktail (for two)
2 sugar cubes
6 dashes orange bitters
Chilled brut Champagne (or dry sparkling wine)
Orange twists for garnish
1. Add a sugar cube to each flute glass in any manner you see fit. Add 3 dashes of orange bitters over each cube. Let them settle in for a minute.
2. Fill the flutes almost to the top with Champagne. Garnish each with a lemon or orange twist and serve immediately.
Other Variations: As mentioned above, it can be rather fun to switch around your bitters in this elegant equation. Both Angostura and Peychaud’s do nice things to the end result. And your homemade bitters (if you have them) probably are swell, too. There are also a wide number of new bitters available on the market that are worth tracking down to try, and which will add a modern twist. Intriguing ones to look for include Bittermans Xocolatl Mole bitters, Scrappy’s Cardamom bitters, The Bitter Truth Creole bitters, and other Bitter Truth bitters. Having a number of bitters for guests to try sounds like quite a good party idea, too.
Left to right: Regan's Orange, Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters
Doesn’t this sound like a risqué dance that’s only mentioned in heated whispers along the back walls of respected waltz ballrooms? Before the main waltzers decide to take it to the streets, that is, slipping out of their upright facades (and limiting buttoned-up clothing) to embrace the sensuality of the Lavanda in a Lavanda dance-off against those shady (but cute, too) across-the-tracks dancers. Whew, all this hip-shaking is enough to make anyone thirsty. May I suggest the real Lavanda as a quencher?
4 lavender sprigs
3 ounces gin
1-1/2 ounce lavender simple syrup (see A Note)
1. Add the flowers from the top of two lavender sprigs, the gin, and the lavender simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle well.
2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Shake like a dancer.
2. Strain equally into two flute glasses. Top each with chilled Prosecco, and garnish each with a lavender sprig.
A Note: To make lavender simple syrup, add 1/4 cup chopped fresh lavender, 2 cups sugar, and 1 1/2 cups water to a medium-sized saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until it reaches a low boil, stirring regularly. Once it reaches that low boil, reduce the heat to medium- low and keep the syrup at a simmer, still stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
A Variation: If you don't want to bother making lavender simple syrup, try a "La Rosette." Add 1/2 an ounce St. Germain liqueor (made from elderflower) to a flute glass and fill with Prossecco or Brut Champagne or any other dry sparkling wine.
"Lavanda" (photo provided by Harvard Common Press) St. Germain liquor (used for La Rosette)
This is kind of a curious punch, at first glance, with its two liquors, two kinds of bubbles, English drawing room favorite claret (but no ascots to be found), and then (as if that weren’t enough), a curious coalescence of sweet vermouth, orange, pineapple, and a bit of simple syrup (well, maybe a touch more than a bit--a sweet bite, let’s call it). It almost seems, at that first glance, doomed to fail. But to use a metaphor that matches the title, it actually flies like a bird, with every flavor slipping here and there to the forefront (like birds in a flock as they fly, if I may be so bold), and with a serious enough undertone hiding within that it can both charm and fortify. As a bonus, it looks lovely, with a deep rich coloring. All in all, it’s so darn swell that I nominated it for Punch of the Year, 2008. And, you know what? It won. Of course, I was the only judge, but hey, that’s how the contest went.
Serves 10 to 12
12 ounces brandy
12 ounces dark rum
16 ounces claret (Merlot or Cabernet will suffice)
12 ounces Simple Syrup
4 ounces sweet vermouth
1 ice round, or cracked ice
1 orange, cut into slices
5 pineapple rounds, cut into chunks
One 2-liter bottle chilled club soda
One 750-milliliter bottle brut sparkling wine
1. Pour the brandy, rum, claret, simply syrup, and vermouth into a large punch bowl. Stir slightly with a long spoon.
2. Add the ice round to the punch, or add enough cracked ice that the bowl is almost halfway full.
3. Add the orange slices and pineapple chunks, and slowly add the club soda. Stir again, but not frantically.
4. Gently add the sparkling wine and stir--but just once more. Serve in white wine glasses or punch cups.