EpicuriousBy Joanne Camas, Epicurious.com
"Nothing really says celebration like hearing that cork pop, seeing the bubbles flow into a flute, and feeling those bubbles on the palate," says Kim Haasarud, author of numerous books on cocktails-including 101 Champagne Cocktails-and founder of Liquid Architecture, a beverage consultancy. But while Champagne (or, more generally, sparkling wine) is undoubtedly an enduring classic, today's fascination with cocktails has spurred innovation and experimentation. Champagne with berries? Great! Mix it with chocolate? Why not? "Cocktails, like food, should be a culinary experience," says Haasarud. "It is about combining ingredients to create a sensation on the palate and entice all the senses with a combination of flavors, textures, aromas, and garnishes."
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The popularity of Champagne cocktails is, well, bubbling over because "one can have a cocktail made with the sparkling wine and yet pay less for it than for a whole glass of straight bubbly." Haasarud's go-to Champagne cocktail is an Aperol Spritzer, which has about 3/4 of an ounce of Aperol (an Italian aperitif made with bitter and blood oranges) topped with a brut Champagne or Prosecco. "I really love the French 75, too…."
Read on for Haasarud's suggestions for making and serving Champagne cocktails at your next party, and try five delicious recipes from her book.
Classic Champagne Cocktail
The champagne shines through in this classic-with a hint of added flavor from spirits, bitters, and citrus peels. Many variations of this recipe are served at hotels and bars worldwide.
- 1 sugar cube
- Angostura bitters
- Lemon or orange twist, for garnish
Soak the sugar cube in Angostura bitters and drop into a champagne flute. Top with a luxury champagne or a sparkling wine. Garnish with a lemon or orange twist.
Sparkling Apple Cocktail
- 1 ounce apple juice
- 1/2 ounce cognac
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup
- 4 to 5 red or green apple chunks
- 3 ounces champagne
Combine the apple juice, cognac, simple syrup, and apple chunks in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a cocktail glass. Add additional ice, if needed. Top off with champagne. Stir and serve.
- 3 ounces champagne
- 1 ounce ginger beer
- 1/2 ounce raspberry puree
- 1/2 ounce raspberry liqueur
Combine all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and stir for 5 to 10 seconds. Strain into a champagne flute.
- 1 ounce limoncello (an Italian lemon liqueur)
- 1/2 ounce Cointreau
- Long lemon peel, for garnish
Combine the limoncello and Cointreau in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake moderately, and strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne. Garnish with a long lemon peel.
Lemon Rosé Bellini
- 1 spoonful lemon sorbet, softened
- 1/2 ounce citrus vodka (optional, for a stronger drink)
- 4 ounces rosé champagne
- 2 to 3 raspberries, for garnish
Combine the sorbet with the vodka in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously. Add the champagne and stir. Strain into a chilled champagne flute and garnish with floating raspberries.
• Use Fresh Fruit as an Ingredient
Champagne provides a very versatile base for showcasing sprightly flavors like citrus fruits. All types of oranges-and especially blood oranges-pair beautifully, as do ripe berries such as strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. A good rule of thumb is to use about a tablespoon of muddled fruit in the glass and then pour the bubbly over it. Stir gently to incorporate.
• Pair the Right Foods
Haasarud likes fried foods, such as wontons or chicken, with Champagne. "Try having a glass with a basket of onion rings-the Champagne cuts right through the fried breading for a wonderful pairing." As for hors d'oeuvres, the author suggests an artisanal salami and cheese platter; baked Brie with apples, cranberries, or figs; or even sushi.
Related: Award-Worthy Bubbly
• Less-Expensive Bubbly Is Best for Cocktails
"If I'm going to use some purées, fruits, or juices," explains Haasarud, "I suggest using a more affordable sparkling wine. If it's in your budget, you can splurge for something a little better, so guests have the option of having a straight glass of bubbly or a cocktail."
"If I have an expensive Champagne, like a vintage Cristal or Dom Pérignon," she says, "I just want to barely accent it, because it's so good as is. Maybe a classic Champagne cocktail with a sugar cube and a splash of bitters."
Best Bargain Bubbly: Barefoot Bubbly, Freixenet, Chandon Brut, Chandon Rosé
Best Splurge-Worthy Bottles: Mumm, Nicholas Feuillatte, Perrier-Jouët, Dom Pérignon
• Give It a Spirited Splash
"There are some amazing cordials and aperitifs out there that mix really well with Champagne," Haasarud notes. She particularly likes St-Germain elderflower liqueur, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, and crème de violette.
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Kim Haasarud is a James Beard-honored mixologist and author and the founder of Liquid Architecture. In addition to the popular 101 Champagne Cocktails, Haasarud has written 101 Margaritas, 101 Martinis, 101 Sangrias & Pitcher Drinks, and 101 Blender Drinks, plus the upcoming 101 Mojitos and Other Muddled Drinks. Haasarud's Holiday Cocktail Bar app for iPhone, iPad, and Android includes some Champagne cocktails, martinis, punches, and toddies for the holiday season.