This time of year is filled with special occasions, and in an ideal world, those occasions would be filled with Champagne cocktails. They are the most elegant expression of the bartender's art, adding an extra splash of opulence and charm. Of course, you can use any dry sparkling wine in these cocktails--a good prosecco or Spanish cava would do nicely--just make sure that whatever you add is good and cold.
This drink is simple, classic, and always well received. The bitters add depth of flavor and color; the sugar cube adds visual appeal as it furiously bubbles away, like the treasure chest at the bottom of an aquarium.
1 sugar cube
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.
This elegant, crowd-pleasing drink was named after a particularly effective piece of artillery used by the French in WWI. To get make a spiral-cut lemon peel, cut a thin piece of lemon peel with a v-shaped channel knife. Coil the peel around a straw or chopstick, and place the straw in a glass of water in the freezer for 15 minutes.
1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice, reserve the peel for garnish
1/2 ounce simple syrup
In a cocktail shaker, shake ingredients with ice and strain into a Champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine and garnish with a spiral-cut lemon peel.
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.
Guinness (or other stout or dark beer; at Fort Defiance, we use Abita's Turbodog, an English brown ale)
Fill an 8-ounce highball glass halfway with Guinness; slowly top with sparkling wine.
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Bengal Lancer's Punch
Writer-adventurer Charles H. Baker, Jr. picked up this recipe during a trip he took around the world in 1926, from a British cavalry captain stationed in India, and recorded it in his 1939 masterpiece The Gentleman's Companion.
As when serving all punches, it is necessary to chill all your ingredients and your punch bowl before serving, and remember to add the sparkling water and sparkling wine just before your guests arrive. Serve the punch in a bowl with a big block of ice, made by setting a large bowl or Bundt pan filled with water in your freezer overnight.
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup aged rum (such as Mount Gay Eclipse)
1 bottle dry red wine (a Beaujolais Nouveau would do well)
1/4 cup Cointreau
1/4 cup simple syrup (plus additional if necessary)
1 bottle sparkling wine
1 cup sparkling water
3 limes, thinly sliced
Combine juices, rum, red wine, Cointreau, and simple syrup in a bowl and refrigerate for 3 hours. When ready to serve, pour the mixture into a chilled punch bowl over a block of ice, and slowly add the sparkling wine and sparkling water. Taste the punch, and add more simple syrup if necessary. Garnish the bowl with thin slices of lime.
This drink hails from New York's Pegu Club and was created by mixology maven Audrey Saunders. It's basically a mojito with Champagne, and I've never served one to someone who didn't like it.
1 1/2 ounces aged rum (we use Bacardi 8)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
3/4 ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
5-6 fresh mint leaves
In a cocktail shaker, combine rum, bitters, lime juice, simple syrup, and mint. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. (If you don't want tiny mint pieces in your drink, use a handheld tea strainer, too.) Top with sparkling wine.
I put this drink on the brunch menu at my cafe, Fort Defiance, at the suggestion of the great writer-bartender Toby Cecchini. 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.
1 1/2 ounces Aperol
2 ounces sparkling wine
2 ounces sparkling water
1 lemon twist
Combine all ingredients in a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with a lemon twist and a cocktail olive (on the side, if your prefer).
This cocktail was created by bartending legend Dale Degroff, and has an elegant, old-school appeal. To garnish this drink with his signature flamed orange twist, cut a disk of orange peel a little bigger than a half-dollar coin. Light a wooden match, and hold it between the drink and the peel. Squeeze the peel so that its oils pass through the flame before landing on the surface of the cocktail.
1 ounce cognac
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur (such as Luxardo)
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/4 ounce lemon juice
1 flamed orange twist
In a cocktail shaker, shake ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a flamed orange twist, if desired.
This one was contributed to Ted Saucier's beautifully illustrated 1951 book Bottoms Up! by Ben Stahl, an artist whose pin-up style drawing of the titular nymphs appears on the facing page.
1/2 ounce cognac
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier (or Cointreau)
1 thin orange slice
Pour cognac and Grand Marnier into an ice-filled brandy snifter or rocks glass. Top with sparkling wine. Garnish with orange.
This spin on the classic French 75 uses tequila as the base.
1 ounce tequila
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 lime wedge
In a cocktail shaker, shake ingredients with ice. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with sparkling wine and garnish with a lime wedge.
I. B. F. Pick-Me-Up Cocktail
Here's a cocktail adapted from the Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock, published in London in 1930. The IBF in the title refers to International Bar Fly, the loose affiliation of colorful drinkers and bars created in 1924, whose home base was Harry's New York Bar in Paris. The drink calls for Fernet Branca, an Italian digestivo with a flavor as intensely bitter and medicinal as it is polarizing; you will either love it or hate it. As a "pick-me-up," this drink was meant to be consumed in the morning, after an evening of overindulgence.
1 teaspoon Fernet Branca
1 1/2 teaspoons Cointreau
1 lemon twist
Pour Fernet Branca and Cointreau over ice in a small wine glass. Top with sparkling wine, and garnish with a lemon twist.