A little bubbly never hurt anyone, and Champagne cocktails are indisputably one of the more elegant ways to celebrate, especially during the holidays. But what could you add to Champagne to make it any better, you might ask? Well, fine Cognac for one — and why not? This year has been a doozy. Here are five bubble-driven drinks to set it right:
The French 75
Created around the time of Prohibition and ironically named after a WWI field gun, this drink packs a punch. When served in a flute, it can also make for an incredibly elegant and enticing toast. Though the French 75 was originally made with gin, I often prefer a rounder, richer choice of Cognac or, sometimes, bourbon. A lemon twist brightens the drink and adds a touch of class. Remember: Garnishes can make a room.
1 oz Louis Royer Force 53 VSOP Cognac
1/2 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
Top with Champagne
1. Combine Cognac, lemon and simple syrup with ice into a cocktail shaker.
2. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds and strain into a chilled champagne flute glass.
3. Top slowly with champagne to fill the glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
This drink predates the word “cocktail” itself and is still a crowd pleaser. It essentially consists of a sugar cube doused in Angostura that is dropped to the bottom of the freshly poured glass of Champagne, thus producing a stream of bubbles from the sugar. To take this drink one step further, add a dash of St. Germain elderflower liqueur for a more floral feel.
White sugar cube
½ oz St. Germain (optional)
1. Soak a white sugar cube with Angostura Bitters
2. Drop with a spoon into a glass of Champagne
3. Finish with splash of St. Germain (optional)
Burnt Orange Kir
Many may know the Kir Royale, which uses cassis, but that traditional drink can become a bit saccharin past one glass. A brighter, more uplifting citrusy take on this cocktail might better suit today’s palate — and can involve a bit of pyrotechnics if you dare to flame the orange oils over the drink.
Flaming an orange is a relatively simple task, but it involves a few important details. Start with a small, round disc sliced from the rind, then light a match and wait for the fire to burn past the sulfur-based head, since you definitely don’t want that in your cocktail. Squeeze the orange over the flame to release the oils, creating a burst of fire and garnish for the drink. Not only does this add a unique, slightly burnt aromatic to complement the bourbon and elderflower, but it’s sure to set a celebratory mood for any gathering. Enjoy.
Burnt Orange Kir
1 ½ oz Lillet Blanc
½ oz Cynar
1. Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice.
2. Strain into a Champagne flute and top with Champagne
3. Garnish with a flamed orange twist.
The Black Velvet
Taking things in a completely different direction, the black velvet is a beer and Champagne cocktail — and it is delicious. A dark porter or even Guinness will work for the beer, which needs to be mixed with equal parts bubbly. Black-colored cocktails are all the rage these days, and your guests will definitely be intrigued.
1. In a mixing glass, combine equal parts Porter & Champagne
2. Stir slowly together and pour into Champagne flutes.
When in doubt, no one will ever complain about an Aperol Spritz. It’s quick, easy and even calls for a far cheaper Prosecco, rather than Champagne. Aperol is a low-alcohol Italian aperitif that has a bitter profile but is not as pungent as Campari. The result is a drink that is not too sweet, and the bubbles dance on the tongue nicely. Spritzes can easily be adapted to feature most any aperitif, wine or spirit, providing they are refreshing and not too strong.
2 oz Aperol
3 oz dry Prosecco
1 oz soda water
1. Add Aperol and sparkling wine to a Collins or wine glass.
2. Add ice and stir gently. Top with soda.
3. Garnish with an orange slice.