“Come quickly, I’m drinking the stars!”
Dom Perignon poetically exclaimed in 1693, upon his first sip of what we now know as champagne. I know he was a monk but there is just something romantic about that, isn’t there? More than three hundred years later our romance with bubbles continues. Who doesn’t love a glass of champagne?
Bubbles have presided over many of the great moments in history. Whenever we celebrate a major change in our lives, we often reach for the bubbly. The unmistakable “pop” of the cork, the millions of streaming bubbles in each bottle, the frothing over the rim of the glass when poured – it’s a lively drink perfect for festive occasions.
Champagne is one of the most versatile beverages in the world; shouldn’t it be one of the most versatile bases for a complex cocktail too? If almost everyone loves champagne, why isn’t it in more actual drinks? The cocktail geek in me was intrigued by the thought of adding the extra touch of drama to the classic cocktails and by creating new ones using some of the fantastic liqueurs recently introduced in the market. Well,
a little research quickly revealed that Kim Haasarud, the Liquid Chef, offers compelling proof in the pages of her beautiful book, 101 Champagne Cocktails, that champagne is indeed very versatile and can be used in all manner of drinks from aperitif to frozen. The recipes and advice she has shared with us here should help you on your way to offering cocktails that sparkle on your menus.
Don’t wait for festive occasions to offer these. Make any occasion festive by offering these lively drinks anytime!
BUBBLE BAR BASICS
BC – Champagne is eminently food-friendly; it pairs well with just about anything. Does that translate well when incorporating flavors into champagne cocktails?
KH – Champagne is very versatile. It can be mixed with a wide variety of fruits, herbs, spices, and other spirits fairly easily. The trick is finding the right way to incorporate them. Take for example, berries. Unlike in a cocktail, where you can easily shake them up, muddle, or use a puree in the drink simply by shaking, you can’t do that with champagne. More likely, you’ll need to use a raspberry puree and roll the contents gently with champagne.
BC – I have not-so-fond memories that involved a bite of chocolate wedding cake with butter cream frosting followed by a sip of Brut champagne – a disastrous clash. Are there any other flavors or ingredients to avoid when pairing?
KH -The key is the sugar and acid/fat balance. Brut champagne has no added sugar and lots of acidity, so when you are drinking that next to a decadent wedding cake with lots of sugar and fat – that’s pretty tough to swallow, literally. However, if you had had a demi-sec (semi-sweet champagne), it would have worked better.
BC -What are some basic tips for making drinks with bubbles?
KH – Mixing. When using a puree with champagne (i.e. Classic Bellini), make sure you roll the puree and champagne contents in a cocktail shaker, then strain into the flute. Too many times I’ve gotten a Bellini where the puree is sitting on the bottom and the champagne is on top. It needs to be mixed, but gently. When topping off a drink with a splash of bubbly, be sure to stir it to really make the whole drink sparkle. Otherwise, you just have a layer of champagne on top that really doesn’t do anything for the drink. Always use COLD sparkling wine . . . please! Even in iced cocktails, adding a splash of warm champagne dilutes the drink rapidly.
BC – Batching ability is always a plus for Banquets and Catering Departments. Any tips or pitfalls to avoid?
KH – Most cocktails can be batched ahead of time. Always chill the champagne beforehand and always have extra on hand, because many people will just want a glass of bubbly. And always make champagne the last ingredient you add to the drink.
BC – Do you find that people gravitate more towards simple enhancements to champagne or to cocktails that are more complex?
KH – I find that people who really love champagne, like it as-is. They may like a simple enhancement or a very simple champagne cocktail (one ingredient added, at the most). They may venture out and have a champagne cocktail occasionally but for the most part, they like their champagne right out of the bottle. The people who most gravitate towards champagne cocktails are the people who like the idea of a glass of champagne but don’t want a whole glass of it, nor do they want to pay the $16+ glass price tag. A champagne cocktail is a way for them to experience champagne – have that little bit of luxurious effervescence – and have a cocktail at the same time.
But, champagne in and of itself just says “celebration” and “happiness.” Hearing the cork pop, seeing the bubbles in the glass – it’s hard NOT to like that. It definitely sets a fun and celebratory tone for the evening. Even if you’re not celebrating something in particular, everyone can find something to toast to with champagne.
BC – What is your favorite spectrum to work within — sweet, spicy, bitter, sour?
KH – When working with champagne, I like all of them, with spicy probably being my least favorite and bitter being my most favorite. I LOVE working with the Italian aperitifs such as Aperol. It’s sooo good – just that and champagne, as well as mixed with juices and other fruits.
Also, as far as the types of champagne I like working with in cocktails – extra dry and demi-sec. They already have sugar in them, so I don’t need to add as much.
BC – I think most consumers are primarily familiar with a champagne cocktail as an aperitif. How do you bridge the mental gap into other meal parts?
KH – I would definitely recommend a glass of champagne (or champagne cocktail) at the END of the meal as well, especially with a demi-sec. It’s a great ending to a great meal and really settles the stomach. Or, in some cases, carries the evening on. . .
Many thanks and good cheer to Kim Haasarud, who is my friend and a James Beard-honored mixologist and author. She has written a best-selling cocktail series with Wiley & Sons: 101 Margaritas, 101 Martinis, 101 Sangrias & Pitcher drinks, 101 Champagne Cocktails, 101 Blender Drinks, and 101 Mojitos and other Muddled Drinks.
Coming out in the app store this month, Kim also has an app called “Holiday Cocktail Bar” App by Liquid Architecture: A user-friendly App featuring some great market-fresh holiday cocktails.
tel 310.780.6502 / www.liquid-architecture.com