Champagne cocktails

The festive Champagne punch is the best way to grace any occasion with splendour. Here are some sparkling-cocktail recipes that will surely add a warm spark to your parties.

Joanne Camas        Print Edition: Feb 6, 2011

Come quickly, I'm drinking the stars!" exclaimed Dom Pérignon in 1693, upon his first sip of what we now know as champagne. More than three hundred years later our romance with the bubbles continues. "Nothing really says celebration like hearing that cork pop, seeing the bubbles flow into a flute, and feeling them on the palate," says Kim Haasarud, author of 101 Champagne Cocktails, and founder of Liquid Architecture, a beverage consultancy. But while champagne, or more generally, sparkling wine is undoubtedly an endearing classic, today's fascination with cocktails has spurred innovation and experimentation. "Cocktails, like food, is a culinary experience," says Haasarud. "It is about combining ingredients to create a buzz on the palate and entice all the senses with a combination of flavours, textures, aromas, and garnishes." The popularity of champagne cocktails is 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. Here are Haasarud's suggestions for making and serving champagne cocktails at your next party, and try five delicious recipes from her book.

Sparkling apple cocktail
Apple is the undercurrent in this bubbly cocktail; it mingles with a touch of sweet and crisp of the sparkling wine and makes for a drink that tastes of Fall. One can use champagne, prosecco, or cava in this recipe. Just make sure that whatever you choose is well-chilled; a cold bottle of bubbly is easier to open (and less likely to spill over) than a warm one

Ingredients: One ounce apple juice; 1/2 ounce cognac, 1/2 ounce simple syrup; 4 to 5 red or green apple chunks; and 3 ounces champagne

Preparation: 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.

Classic champagne cocktail

This classic, which calls for a sugar cube with a dash of Angostura bitters in a glass topped with champagne, is believed to have been invented in 1899. Still a favourite, many variations of this recipe are served at drinking dens worldwide.

Ingredients: One sugar cube; Angostura bitters; champagne; lemon or orange twist for garnish

Preparation: Soak the sugar cube in Angostura bitters and drop into a champagne flute. Top with a luxury champagne. Garnish with lemon or orange twist.

Siren's song

The name might attract your guests, but the simplicity of this last-minute cocktail will not only charm you but will go a long way too. This is one of the easiest amongst all other champagne cocktail recipes recounted here. You will require champagne, raspberry purée, ginger beer, and raspberry liqueur.

Ingredients: Three ounces champagne; 1 ounce ginger beer; 1/2 ounce raspberry puree; 1/2 ounce raspberry liqueur

Preparation: Combine all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and stir for five to 10 seconds. Strain into a champagne flute.

Nice to know

Use fresh fruit as an ingredient
Champagne provides a very versatile base for showcasing sprightly flavours 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 first put 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," she suggests. As for hors d'oeuvres, the author suggests an artisanal salami and cheese platter; baked Brie with apples, cranberries, or figs; or even sushi.

Use less-expensive bubbly
"If you're going to use some purées, fruits, or juices," says Haasarud, "I recommend using a more affordable sparkling wine. But, 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 perfect as it is. May be a classic champagne cocktail with a sugar cube and a splash of bitters, that's it."

Best bargain bubbly

Barefoot Bubbly,
Freixenet,
Chandon Brut,
Chandon Rose

Best spluge worthy:
Mumm, Nicholas
Feuillatte,
Perrier-Jouët,
Dom Pérignon

Limoncello sparkle

One can simply call it a 'jolly-good drink of all time' because it involves very few ingredients and gives you a zesty punch. Limoncello is an Italian liqueur made with fresh lemon peel alcohol, usually grain alcohol or vodka. The peels soak in the alcohol for several weeks, adding a notable lemon flavour.

Ingredients: One ounce limoncello; 1/2 ounce cointreau; champagne; and long lemon peel for garnish

Preparation: 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 and serve

Lemon Rose Bellini

In a time overflowing with champagne cocktails, it's nice to find one with a character. In homage to the Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini, the eponymous cocktail was created by Giuseppe Cipriani in 1943 at Harry's Bar in Venice to celebrate an exhibition by the artist.

Ingredients: One spoonful lemon sorbet, softened; 1/2 ounce citrus vodka (optional, for a stronger drink); 4 ounces rosé champagne; 2 to 3 raspberries for garnish.

Preparation: 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 or a cocktail glass, and garnish with floating raspberries.

(Courtesy: www.epicurious.com)

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