Folks, champagne season is upon us. Perhaps you’re asking yourself, is champagne season even a thing? Well I’m pretty sure it isn’t, but I think I’ll make it a thing. Unofficially, I’m calling champagne season from Christmas through New Year’s Eve onto Valentine’s Day (and perhaps
more less importantly, my birthday, the day prior), and until the end of award season (which is most definitely a thing in Los Angeles). I feel like there has to be some statistic that people drink champagne more during these months of December, January, and February than any other season of the year. However, that may be due more to things like in-laws and seasonal affective disorder, then proper celebrations.
While there may be no real statistics about drinking champagne during the winter, there are statistics about drinking champagne on New Year’s Eve. A survey last year by Moët & Chandon found that 50% of Americans and 77% of millennials celebrate New Year’s Eve with champagne. As such, it only seemed appropriate to do a champagne post the week of New Year’s Eve.
But while I may be a purist with some things, champagne isn’t one of them. While I’ll drink a glass of bubbly with the best of them (preferably in a glass that’s not a flute), I have no problem throwing it in a cocktail shaker to extend the life of the bottle of champagne. So today I’m sharing some easy champagne cocktail recipes.
Don’t want to blow your holiday bonus on expensive bottles of champagne? Then consider alternative sparkling wines to some of the pricier champagnes you’re probably familiar with. At the end of the day, champagne is a premium sparkling wine that is produced in the Champagne region of France (and with rules and methods that vary from other types of sparkling wine). All champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne. Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine using Macabeu grapes, is probably closest in flavor profile to champagne, though Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine, is often also used in cocktails that call for sparkling wine.
I’ll largely be using champagne and sparkling wine interchangeably in the champagne cocktail recipes below. It really depends on your budget and taste preferences. In other words, don’t just go out buying an expensive bottle of champagne to make a cocktail, because I sure as heck haven’t! See my round-up below for a few easy champagne cocktail recipes for champagne season.
Alright, so perhaps the French 75 gets a lot of playing time here on WTG, but it’s for good reason. It’s got history, dating back to World War I (named after the French canon by the same name), and on a summer day, there are few drinks that I like more. It’s classy, but not pretentious. To make the French 75 cocktail, add gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Strain into a fancy glass, like a flute or coupe, and top with champagne (or Cava) and a lemon twist. Traditional French 75 cocktail recipes typically call for champagne, but cava, makes a great alternative if you aren’t trying to break the bank.
If you know Italian, then you know that “sbagliato” means “mistaken,” which is just what this cocktail is. The story goes that a bartender at Bar Basso in Milan, Italy erroneously poured Italian sparkling wine, rather than gin, when a customer ordered a Negroni. By the time the bartender realized his mistake, the customer was pleased with the concoction. Combine the Campari and vermouth to a rocks glass with ice and stir until it becomes cold. Top with sparkling white wine (such as Prosecco) and garnish with an orange wheel.
Technically, this is an autumn cocktail on the new menu of one of my favorite Los Angeles bars, the Blind Barber (where you can enjoy this AND bottles of champagne on New Year’s Eve). This autumn cocktail comes from my Blind Barber bartender friend, Dan, so go crazy with what you think the acronym stands for, such as Adult Drink, Addled Dan, and my favorite, Action Dan. To make this champagne cocktail, muddle the sage in a cocktail shaker before adding gin, Lillet Rose, and agave with ice. Shake and strain over ice in a collins glass. Add a splash of tonic water and then a float of Prosecco. Garnish with a lemon peel.
This may just be my favorite champagne cocktail on the list. Alright, so perhaps that’s because it’s one that I came up with. But it’s really so delicious, refreshing, and fruity. Additionally, it’d make a great summer champagne cocktail for making in batches. Because everyone likes champagne, right? You’ll want to first muddle the blackberries in a cocktail shaker good enough to break up the berries and release the juice. Next you’ll add the rest of the ingredients (except for the champagne) with ice to the shaker and shake. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and top with champagne.
This is really your traditional champagne cocktail and probably the easiest champagne cocktail you’ll make. Simply drop the sugar cube into a chilled champagne flute. Wet the sugar cube with a couple dashes of bitters (preferably Angostura or Peychaud’s) and fill with champagne and squeeze a lemon twist on top. Some people also like to add a little bit of cognac, brandy, or Grand Marnier for added complexity.
While the history of cocktails isn’t that long, the Air Mail is one of the few cocktails here (in additional to the French 75) that has some history to it. The first proper airmail didn’t take place until the early 1900s (since planes were required after all for it to work), while the Airmail cocktail made its first documented appearance in 1949 in Esquire’s 1949 edition of Handbook for Hosts. Consider it the rum version of the French 75, which had just been introduced years prior. You’ll add all of the ingredients (except the champagne) to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain over ice into a Collins glass filled with ice and top with champagne. (Photo courtesy of PUNCH/Daniel Krieger.)
- 1 oz. tequila
- 1 oz. Cointreau or Grand Marnier (or triple sec)
- 1 oz. lime juice
That’s right ladies and gentleman, the best of both worlds. I like to think that this is the best of Los Angeles in one glass. The classiness of L.A. combined with the influence of Mexico. This is inspired by a Rick Bayless recipe that’s more of a summer punch, though I like making this similar to a traditional margarita. You’ll largely make this like you would a margarita, adding the tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice (a tad of agave if you wish to sweeten) to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shaking. Strain into a rocks glassed filled with ice and top with champagne and garnish with a lime slice.
Top photo from L.C. Nøttaasen on Flickr.