Tired of the same old New Year’s toast? Plain old Champagne? It’s nice, and all… But I’ll bet you’ve caught yourself wondering, at least once, whether there’s something more out there in Bubbly Land. Well, there is! And I’m here to tell you about it. Prepare to enter the society of the Champagne Cocktail…
The Champagne Cocktail is a concept that goes way back. At least as far as the mid 1800s, when it first appeared in a mixology guide.
The classic recipe is very simple and straightforward: Pour a shot of Brandy into a tall Champagne flute, then add a dash of bitters and a Sugar Cube. Top up with iced Champagne and stir. Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry.
In the Humphrey Bogart thriller The Big Sleep, General Sternwood orders Bogie’s character, Philip Marlowe, one of his patented Champagne Cocktails: “Champagne, cold as Valley Forge, with about three ponies of Brandy under it.” No Bitters, no Sugar and no Cherry. Just a celebration of Brandy!
There are lots of different recipes that fall into this festive category. Here are a few of my favourites…
The Barbotage follows the basic Champagne Cocktail recipe, but uses Grand Marnier or Triple Sec instead of Brandy. Be sure to try this one if you don’t like Brandy. I maintain that there’s a Chamagne Cocktail for every palate.
I like Kir Royale; a tot of Kir or Chambord (Crème de Cassis) liqueur rather than Brandy, served in a tall flute and topped up with cold Champagne. The colour is amazing and the flavour unique. Garnish with a twist of Lemon.
And let’s not forget the old favourite of folks who ‘don’t really drink, but…’ – the Mimosa. That’s just an ounce or two of Fresh Orange Juice in the flute, topped up with Cold Champagne. Simple. Elegant. A lovely ‘wake-up’ colour. Perfect for New Year’s Day brunch.
Finally… There’s the party stalwart, Champagne Punch! Simply add, to a clean glass punch bowl, equal parts (1 1/2 to 2 oz. / 50 to 60 ml each) of Brandy and Orange Liqueur of your choice. To this, add Orange slices, Pineapple diced in 1/4 in. / 1 cm cubes, and whole small Mint Leaves. Fresh Strawberries – hulled and quartered – are also considered de rigueur. If you have the inclination, grate the rind of one of the Oranges before slicing and add a small handful to the Punch bowl before stirring.
Make the punch up an hour before serving to let the fruit and alcohol flavours get jolly with each other. Then add a bottle or two (according to your taste) of iced Club Soda. To serve, ladle three oz. (say, 75 ml) of Punch into a large punch glass and top up with freshly opened, iced Champagne. Don’t add ice to the bowl as you might with other Punch recipes. This will thin the Punch base as it melts ruining the flavour balance!
~ Maggie J.