Champagne cocktails are the perfect cocktails.
First, they’re easy. Some only require adding one thing to champagne.
Second, they’re gorgeous. Champagne on its own is lovely; champagne with a fizzing sugar cube at the bottom of the flute is dead sexy. Impress your guests!
Last, they are delicious, for similar reasons. Champagne tastes good. Adding tasty things to champagne is about as good as you would expect.
(They’re also liquid sophistication. One sip and you’re Dorothy Parker laying quippy smackdowns on everybody and everything.)
This is how I do it:
Champagne Cocktail Recipe
1. Drop a sugar cube in a champagne flute.
2. Douse the sugar cube in bitters.
3. Top off the glass with champagne.
Some notes on ingredients:
You would think this one was easy, but there’s more than one kind of sugar cube. Of course there’s the basic C & H white, but Demerara raw-sugar cubes are cool-looking. They don’t dissolve as quickly, but they’re fun to play with and taste a bit like caramel.
Bitters are what make champagne cocktails so fun. There are infinite varieties and infinite flavors. Each one makes a completely different cocktail. If you have the collector’s instinct, as I do, you could find yourself with quite a selection, as I do. These are the most interesting ones I own.
These bitters are made specifically for cocktail use.
Peychaud’s: Pink, floral, tasty. Makes a really pink cocktail. Like, I’m assuming 1950s Barbie had tiny versions of them on the counter of her mini-bar. Ain’t no shame in deliciousness though.
Bittermen’s Bitters: This is where my
hoarding collector’s instinct really kicks in. They produce a variety of bitters in small batches, packaged in adorable apothecary bottles with medicine-dropper lids, which is useful and brilliant. The Xocolatl Mole is spicy and chocolatey, the Tiki Bitters have a root-beer feel, but it is the Boston Bittahs that have stolen my heart. Chamomile + citrus = forever love.
Some bitters are “digestives,” meaning they were originally taken to aid digestion. They’re often very herbal-tasting (since they contain herb essences), which gives them a distinctive and, frankly, sometimes repulsive flavor. Some of these work well in champagne cocktails. The repulsive ones, less so.
Angostura: Tastes a bit like worcestershire sauce. Amazingly, not in a bad way.
Underburg: The Campbell family is divided on this German digestive. I think it tastes kind of like if you were Maria in the Sound of Music and you were twirling in the Alps and you got dizzy from the elevation and passed out and woke up with your mouth full of Alpine heather or whatever grows up there. You may be looking for this in your cocktail. I’m not here to judge.
You can’t taste expensive champagne in a cocktail. (I’ve tried.) Save your special bottles for toasting your latest hostile takeover and tossing the Reidel flutes in the fireplace (has anyone, ever, anywhere, actually done that?) However, unlike with a mimosa, which is mostly juice, you can taste truly vile sparkling wine in a champagne cocktail. No André! Level up and pay the additional $1.50 for Cook’s.
The very best thing about champagne cocktails: Since champagne is only wine and the alcoholic content of bitters is negligible in the teensy dose required — it’s the rare cocktail I can sip, of a weeknight (or of several weeknights) while still having a normal and productive evening.
I wish I could drink like a lady
I can take one or two at the most
Three and I’m under the table
Four and I’m under the host.
– Dorothy Parker, obviously.
I’m sipping one right now. Cheers!