There is no doubt that champagne enjoys its own special status among the French wines, and is also uniquely synonymous with celebrations of an important nature. But while the best bubbly alone is refreshingly effervescent, fruity and drinkable, sparkling wine from the Champagne region can also be used in some creative and delicious cocktails. Here are some of the finest cocktails that make use of the leading celebratory wine.
Named after a hero of the French resistance and former mayor of the French town of Dijon, the Kir Cocktail, or Kir Aperitif, is the simple blending of crème de cassis and white wine. The Kir Royale, however, is the champagne version which takes around 15ml crème de cassis poured into a champagne flute and topped up with Brut Champagne. A tasteful garnish can be made from summer berries, to create a light and fruity summer drink.
With a history extending back to the mid-nineteenth century, the classic Champagne Cocktail is perhaps one of the oldest cocktails. It is made by placing brown sugar in a champagne flute and soaking it with two or three dashes of Angostura bitters, adding 25ml cognac, then topping with chilled champagne. A sugar cube, rather than loose sugar, must be used to ensure a slow dissolve, and a garnish can be made with an orange twist.
Death in the Afternoon
One of the many cocktails linked with Ernest Hemmingway, Death in the Afternoon was the iconic writer’s contribution to a 1935 cocktail compendium. It is made with 15ml lemon juice, 7.5ml absinthe and 7.5ml sugar syrup shaken with ice and strained into a champagne flute, which is then topped with ice champagne. The slightly risky use of absinthe brings a kick to the cocktail; that explains why Hemmingway wrote a book of the same name about bullfighting.
Its name taken from a flowering plant, this is a simple cocktail that combines 90ml champagne and 90ml fresh orange juice in a champagne flute, garnished with an orange twist. It was invented in the 1920s, and is very similar to the Buck’s Fizz, which has a higher ratio of champagne. Variations include the Grand Mimosa, which adds orange liqueur for some extra strength. A light drink that is popular for weddings and other daytime occasions.
A mint julep that is more Paris than Kentucky, the Champagne Julep uses eight fresh mint leaves, 15ml cognac, 7.5ml sugar syrup and a dash of angostura bitters, shaken with ice before adding 90ml champagne, shaking twice and straining into a julep cup filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint for a cocktail that is not as strong as the original, but is minty, fruity and sparkling.
A cocktail that traces its origins back to Paris in the First World War and was also featured in the film Casablanca, the French 75 still hasn’t lost its crisp and citrus appeal. It is made with 15m fresh lemon juice, 15ml sugar syrup and 30ml dry gin shaken with ice and strained into a champagne flute, before topping with champagne and garnishing with a lemon twist.
Named after the Hollywood star perhaps due to her love of the colour pink, this cocktail uses 4 fresh strawberries muddled in a shaker, before adding 30ml light rum, 30ml strawberry liqueur and 7.5ml sugar syrup. These are shaken with ice and strained into a champagne flute and topping with champagne. Use a strawberry for a pink garnish that the lady herself would approve of.
Porn Star Martini
A cocktail of the twenty-first century, this drink dates back to a London bar in 2002, but has since then found widespread popularity for its sweet and fruity taste. It is made with 60ml vodka, 15ml passion fruit liqueur, 15ml vanilla sugar syrup and 15ml fresh lime juice shaken with ice and strained into a chilled coupe glass. 60ml of champagne can then be added to the glass, or served on the side in a separate glass.
Champagne and tequila may not be an obvious accompaniment, but surprising combinations can have the most pleasing results. 15ml reposado tequila, 22.5ml elderflower liqueur and 30ml fresh grapefruit juice are shaken with ice and strained into a chilled flute glass, which is then filled with champagne. Garnish with grapefruit peel for a fruity and complex cocktail.
We all know that regular mojitos combine a minty coolness and a citrus tanginess with the sweetness of rum and sugar, but have you ever tried the deluxe version? The Royal Mojito is made by muddling 10-12 mint leaves in a collins glass and adding 60ml white rum, 22.5ml fresh lime juice and 7.5ml sugar syrup, then filling the glass with crushed ice and stirring with a bar spoon. After this, fill with champagne and garnish with a mint sprig. This is a mojito with champagne instead of soda water for that royal difference.
Champagne may be a fine wine but it is also an ingredient that can be used creatively by the bartender to give an extra bit of fruity pizazz for occasions of all types. Best served chilled, champagne is great to bring some extra sparkle to our summer days, and from writers and resistance fighters to glamour queens, we can all enjoy the good times with a bubbly smile.