But first, a slight clarification: Most Champagne is expensive and much of it is so good that it merits drinking alone. If you are a person of unlimited means, by all means, buy a case of your favourite bubbly to use in cocktails. For the rest of us, there are a variety of inexpensive and high quality sparkling wines on the market that will make our cocktails shine just the same.
Try a Spanish Cava or Italian Prosecco as the base of your cocktail. They are inexpensive, stocked by most merchants, and won’t disappoint when sampled on their own or in a drink. For simplicity’s sake we’ll refer to the wine as Champagne here, just know that you can substitute freely. Just follow two rules: Always buy a Brut or dry sparkling Wine for these cocktails and always chill your Champagne! Now, onto the main event.
Champagne cocktails have a long and vivid history, but they also just look good.If you’re into a retro vibe name check the Champagne cocktails that appear permanently glued to Nora Charles’ hand in The Thin Man or the fact that Hemingway has one named after him. They start simple, a finger of cassis topped with champagne, which is a Kir Royale, and get more complex from there.
But enough chatter. Let’s get started with the big Kahuna: If you want to make a big splash at your party you want a
Champagne Punch!The drama of this one requires a punch bowl, so either dig that dust collecting gift out of the closet or hit your local thrift store to make this a special occasion. Don’t be deterred by the number of ingredients, it’s really as simple as buying everything and tossing it into a bowl.
The one slightly complex thing worth spending time on is the block of ice.This party is your personal theater so call around and find a block. Your party reputation will thank you plus it isn’t just for dramatic effect. A block of ice melts slower than ice cubes, so it will keep the punch cooler, longer, without watering down your punch, meaning that you can keep your focus on the party while knowing that your cocktail is doing just fine.
If you can’t buy a block of ice you can easily make your own by freezing water in a metal bowl (glass and ceramic bowls will shatter if you’re not careful). Just make sure it’s smaller than your punch bowl. When you’re ready, just place the frozen bowl in a lukewarm bath of water and the ice block will slide right out.
If you do sin, run out of time and end up using ice cubes make sure everything is thoroughly chilled before you add it to the punch bowl and refresh the ice cubes sparingly as the night progresses. Stay classy by pouring the punch into coup glasses.
Ingredients for 32 servings of punch:
- 6 oranges sliced into wheels
- 4-6 pieces star anise
- 1 cup raspberries or strawberries, whatever looks fresh. If you’re using strawberries quarter them
- 1 pineapple sliced into wheels (don’t buy a canned one, if you can’t find a fresh one just skip it)
- 1 bottle Gin
- ½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- ½ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 cup simple syrup
- ½ cup orgeat
- 3 cups sparkling water
- 2 bottles Champagne
In the hour before the party combine all the liquid ingredients except the Champagne and chill. Keep that Champagne in the fridge as well. Slice all the fruit and keep it cool. As your first guests are arriving make a scene out of hauling the block of ice out of your freezer into the punch bowl, pour the liquid ingredients over it, top with the sliced fruit then pour one bottle of Champagne over it and serve. Keep one bottle of Champagne in reserve so that you can refresh the punch later in the evening.
Kir RoyaleThis cocktail dials everything back to pure simplicity.
The Kir has two ingredients, Crème de Cassis and Champagne. The classic proportions are nine parts Champagne to one part cassis. If you have a sweet tooth you can add more cassis.
This may be one of the original Champagne cocktails, at least we know that people were adding a dollop of something like cassis to sparkling wines for quite some time. The proprietary name of Kir and exclusive use of cassis is a rather recent practice dating from the second world war.
This drink is so classic that there are many variations. Most agree this is the classic recipe, it’s a doozy:
- 60 ml (2oz) Gin
- 1 tea spoon superfine sugar
- 15 ml (½ oz) lemon juice
- 150 ml (5 oz) dry Champagne
Shake all ingredients except the Champagne in a shaker with ice and strain over ice into a glass then top with Champagne.
Death in the Afternoon aka The Hemingway
Just be careful; Absinthe frequently clocks in north of 50% alcohol which means this cocktail may foreshadow more than just the bull’s death. For each serving, you'll need 30 ml (1oz) Absinthe and 120-150 ml (4-5oz) Champagne. Pour Absinthe into a Champagne flute and top with Champagne as Mr Hemingway instructed.