It’s undeniable: There is no sexier drink than a Champagne cocktail. Refreshingly citrus drinks like Mimosas and Poinsettias turn brunch into an affair. A Moulin Rouge or a Kir Royale can help prolong lunch for hour after pleasant hour. No black-tie reception would be complete without silver trays bearing flights of crystal-clear Champagne cocktails. Before dinner, appetite-stimulating concoctions such as the Du Monde enliven rather than anesthetize the palate. And later in the evening, the rich tastes of port and Champagne combined in a Nelson’s Blood make the perfect nightcap.
“But,” you ask, “Isn’t it sacrilege to use good sparkling wine in a cocktail?” Is it a sin to drive a Ferrari on the street? Ferraris, after all, are built for racing. No. It’s not a sin. In fact, it’s the ultimate luxury.
Would it offend the Champagne vintners? Roughly one of of every five bottles of Champagne consumed in France is poured into a cocktail. There have been Champagne cocktails nearly as long as cocktails of any kind have been around. According to various sources, they were popular long before the Martini, the Manhattan, the Old Fashioned, or even the Julep were invented during the mid-1800’s.
But it shouldn’t be too surprising because Champagne, unlike other wines, has almost never been the unadulterated fruit of the grape. Early in its history, sugar and brandy were added during the manufacturing process to bring this effervescent libation to life. (Appropriately, the traditional Champagne Cocktail uses those exact same ingredients along with a dash of bitters and a lemon twist. Thus, the extra elements release the flavors which first made Champagne so wildly popular.) Nearly all sparkling wines produced these days (even the driest ones) are sweetened by varying degrees with additional sugar before they are bottled.
While sparkling wines are wonderful, sparkling-wine cocktails are far more personal. The wine itself celebrates the vintner’s art, but the addition of flavor enhancing ingredients allow us to participate in the creation of a broad collection of truly elegant drinks. Each glass becomes unique, contributing new subtleties to Champagne’s complexities and tailoring each experience perfectly to fit any special moment.