by Steven Doyle
Sparkling wines are the quintessential choice for toasting and sharing throughout your holiday season up to and even past New Years Eve. Festive and with great promise of a fantastic year that awaits couples and groups alike, sparklers are the perfect choice for any occasion.
We have plenty of information to arm you for the best party ever. Try our recipes and wine selections. And remember, it is only champagne when it comes from the Champagne region of France. Otherwise, it is sparkling wine.
1. Add a splash of pomegranate liqueur (like Pama); garnish with mint.
2. Add a bit of amaretto and a good amount of pear juice.
3. Soak a sugar cube in bitters then drop it in a full glass of bubbly.
4. Mix in a spoonful of coconut cream.
5. Add a dash of grenadine; garnish with freshly ground pepper.
6. Stir in a splash of elderflower liqueur; garnish with a large lemon twist.
7. Muddle a handful of blueberries and basil in a glass, add bubbly.
8. Top with a few fresh or frozen raspberries, and add a scoop of raspberry sorbet, if you like.
9. Add a dash of Campari or Aperol; garnish with an orange twist.
10. Mix with mango juice; garnish with a lime twist.
These are simple ideas to give your bubbles a bit of pop and super easy. For a bit more expertise we invite you to sample a few of these cocktails:
French 75 is a cocktail made from gin, Champagne, lemon juice, and sugar. It is also called a 75 Cocktail, or in French simply a Soixante Quinze (Seventy Five).
The drink dates to World War I, and an early form was created in 1915 at the New York Bar in Paris—later Harry’s New York Bar—by barman Harry MacElhone. The combination was said to have such a kick that it felt like being shelled with the powerful French 75mm field gun.
Ingredients: 2 oz Champagne, 1/2 oz Lemon juice, 1 oz Gin, 2 Dashes Simple syrup
Preparation: Combine gin, syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into an iced champagne glass. Top up with Champagne. Stir gently.
Champagne Cocktails are what classic movies are made of.
Ingredients: 1 sugar cube, Angostura bitters, Sparkling wine
Method: Soak a sugar cube with a few drops of Angostura bitters. Drop the cube into a Champagne flute, and slowly top glass with sparkling wine.
The Champagne Velvet
This drink is simply equal parts stout and sparkling wine, and to be honest, there are some who will never understand its appeal. But to fans, this is a perfect special-occasion drink, particularly suited to mornings and late afternoons, when its flavors of cola, toffee, and sweet grape stimulate and refresh.
Ingredients: Guinness (or other stout or dark beer; we use Abita’s Turbodog, an English brown ale)
Method: Fill an 8-ounce highball glass halfway with beer; slowly top with sparkling wine.
This recipe uses Aperol, an Italian aperitivo that’s less bitter and less potent than its Milanese cousin, Campari. The drink has a bright orange flavor, and is traditionally served with a cocktail olive; we serve the olive on the side, in a shot glass.
Ingredients: 1 1/2 ounces Aperol, 2 ounces sparkling wine, 2 ounces sparkling water, 1 lemon twist, 1 olive
Method: Combine all ingredients in a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with a lemon twist and a cocktail olive (on the side, if your prefer).
Now that you have your recipes down, we invite you to try out a few of our favorite bottles of bubbles. Below you will find a list of varying price points. We avoid the big names we are sure you are already familiar with:
Cote Mas Crémant de Limoux Brut Rosé (France): This great value sparkling from southern France’s Limoux region, located in the Pyrenean foothills. The palate shows racy lemon zest, raspberries and peaches on the nose, nice mousse and texture, a rich, Average prices runs $12-15 but refreshingly wonderful sparkling value at $15.99
Bouvet-Ladubay Excellence Brut Rosé NV (France): The Bouvet-Ladubay house produces a wide range of sparkling wines from France’s Samur region in the Loire Valley. This one is bright, crisp, lovely rich mousse in the mouth, delicate and precise. A tremendous deal for the buck, 100% cab franc, sourced from over 100 different plots in the Loire, threads of raspberry some floral aspect too. $16.99
Hillersden Legacy Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, NV (New Zealand): This is one of the few sparklings I have seen from New Zealand–although the region crafts several of them, we never see them in the USA it seems. Fresh, popping with grapefruit and citrus notes, floral and crisp, this was a very mouth-watering, enjoyable sparkling. Perfect to start the party with. $23.99
Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee 2007 Brut (California): A blend of premium pinot noir and chardonnay that gets the Royal treatment to be sure—hand-picked, gently pressed and aged for five years. It’s complex with a rich buttery mousse and notes of creamy citrus and apple. $47 (but found at many shops for $25)
Ruinart Brut Blanc de Blancs This 100% chardonnay bottle offers a beautiful expression of blanc de blancs for fans of the style (and for those who just don’t know they’re fans yet.) Its full-bodied mousse and toasty profile gives way to notes of honey, almond, and fragrant fruits like peach and green apple. (89.99)
Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut As the delicate blooms on its label suggest, this bottle strikes a delicate nose of white florals that give way to a more vivacious palate marked by lemon, apricot, honey, and butter. If that sounds like a decadent dessert, then take that as a cue and serve it alongside one—you won’t miss the coffee service at all. (45.00)
Krug Grande Cuvee Brut For those who prefer a champagne with a rounder flavor profile, this cuvée, made with a blend of 140 wines from 13 different years, going as far back as 1998. Rich with stone fruit and citrus with just an edge of spice and hint of chocolate, this is a bottle that deserves to be appreciated entirely on its own. (199.00)
Ten Fun Facts About Champagne:
1. Marilyn Monroe, at least once, took a bath in Champagne. According to her biographer, 350 bottles of champers were used to fill up her bathtub.
2. On average 28,000 bottles of Champagne are served at Wimbledon each year.
3. In 19th century England, high society dandies thought that the best way to polish their boots was with Champagne.
3. Rumor has it that Champagne was created because of an accident. Because the French region of Champagne is the most northerly of the wine-making regions in France, sometimes the cold winter weather would interrupt the fermentation process. So when spring came the yeast would start fermenting again, creating a secondary fermentation, which for a long time the winemakers tried to prevent. This is how Champagne came into being.
4. James Bond is a notable Champagne drinker, who has been spotted drinking Champagne more than 35 times in his films. At least he drinks it more than any other beverage.
5. In a 750ml bottle of Champagne there are 49 million bubbles… approximately.
6. Each second Champagne emits 30 bubbles.
7. Champagne has three times more gas than beer.
8. The pressure in a Champagne bottle is around 90 pounds per square inch. Even though this may not mean a lot to you, it translates into three times the amount of pressure that is in an average car tire.
9. Move over James Bond. Enter Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill gave Bond a serious run for his money, when it came to Champagne consumption. The Pol Roger Champagne house made a special pint bottle of Champagne for Churchill, that was to be served to him each day at 11 AM.
10. If you’re drinking good Champagne you should see what’s called “collerette” – these are bubble trains on the sides of the glass.
Now that you are versed in the history and skilled in making a decent bubbly cocktail, we invite you to learn how to saber a bottle to show off your new found skills. Who better to teach these skills than our favorite foodie geek, Alton Brown. Enjoy the holidays!