My friend Sam brought us the most fabulous hostess gift: A vintage copy of Robert Vermiere’s Cocktails – How to Mix Them. It’s a little pocket-sized gem of a book, best known as one of the first sources for the Sidecar. (It’s possible Harry MacElhone’s ABCs of Mixing Cocktails beat Vermiere to the punch, but both sport a 1922 publication date so I’m content to call it a draw.)
I spent a happy afternoon flipping through the book’s age-darkened pages, amusing myself by deciphering the spidery notes in its margins scribbled by some long-ago drinker. It’s a treasure trove of possibilities.
Alas, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
I’ve had no desire whatsoever to experiment, much less to imbibe. Like nearly everyone else in my area code, I’ve been slammed by the bug that doctors are calling the Super Cold. I’ll spare you the litany of disgusting symptoms and secondary infections, but I feel compelled to brag that I made a nurse say “Eeeww!”
After a trip to the emergency room and enough prescriptions to supply a small pharmacy, I’m finally back among the living. I even managed to have a drink or two last night. But frankly, the idea of tinkering with proportions or doing a lot of in-depth historical research is still making me a little woozy. Luckily, there were enough great bubbly-based drinks flowing at the Cockails and Canapes party that I won’t have to leave you in the lurch this week. Here’s one of my favorites:
Le Mistral Mauve
1/2oz to 1oz creme de violette
1/2oz rosemary-infused simple syrup, or to taste
Brut Champagne or other dry sparkling wine
Measure the violette and rosemary syrup into a Champagne flute. Top with a dry bubbly, and garnish with a blossoming herb. (We used rosemary, but any pretty sprig will do.)
To make rosemary syrup, measure equal parts water and sugar into a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, and stir occasionally until sugar is completely dissolved. Add a large bunch of rosemary to the pan, and remove from the heat. Allow the rosemary to steep in the syrup until its flavor is very pronounced. Remove the rosemary, and strain the syrup through a fine sieve (or a coffee filter, if you want to be fancy).
I usually add a fresh sprig of rosemary to the syrup bottle; it reminds me what’s inside, and has the side effect of looking rather charming. Flavored syrup keeps in the refrigerator for at least a week. Other drinks that use rosemary syrup include the Gin-Gin Cooler and the Rosemary Five; It’s also lovely in sparkling water as a homemade soda.
EDITED TO ADD: If you can’t find creme violette in your area, Monin makes a lovely non-alcoholic violet syrup that you can use in its place. Lots of restaurant supply stores sell these syrups, or you can buy them on Amazon.
In the pantheon of sparkling cocktails, there are a thousand lesser gods, and then there are the titans: the bright Mimosa, the elegant Champagne cocktail, the tart French 75, and the dusky Kir Royale. They’re generally a subtle lot, and so simple to make that you hardly need a recipe. They’re all lovely in their own ways and moods — Mimosas at brunch, Champagne cocktails at weddings, French 75s when you want to get into an argument about gin vs. brandy — but the Kir Royale is perhaps the most adaptable.
Until it was popularized by Catholic priest Félix Kir, the simple aperitif of white wine and blackcurrant liqueur was known quite aptly as blanc-cassis throughout its native Burgundy. But then, history intervened. An active organizer in the Resistance during World War II, Monsieur Kir helped plan the escape of more than 5,000 prisoners of war. After the Liberation, Kir was elected mayor of Dijon — the Burgundian capital — and eventually took his place in the French national assembly. He was the last clergy member to wear the habit in the halls of the Palais Bourbon, and he always toasted delegations visiting Dijon with the aperitif that perfectly marries two of the town’s best tipples.
The original Kir is made by dosing white wine — not, as some would say, Burgundy’s reknowned Chablis, but rather the slightly sour Aligoté — with Dijon’s equally famous blackcurrant liqueur, creme de cassis. The Kir Royale makes things a bit more festive by replacing the white wine with Champagne, an inspired substitution that moves an everyday apero into the realm of celebratory cocktail.
The Kir Royale also makes a perfect party drink, as it’s low in alcohol — best for guests who may not be accustomed to knocking back a few high-octane libations in an evening — and quite forgiving of measurement-free mixing. After all, what host wants to spend time fiddling with precisely a half-ounce of this and exactly three shakes of that when there are guests to greet, coats to hang, conversation to encourage, and appetizers to primp?
We’re having a few friends over for cocktails and canapés tomorrow night, and one of the ways we’re planning to keep things simple is by setting up a do-it-yourself Champagne bar. We’ll put a case of bubbly on ice, line up a couple dozen flutes, and gather a gaggle of colorful liqueurs — cassis, St-Germain, absinthe, violette, Chartreuse — for guests to customize their drinks. We’ll have syrups, garnishes, and bitters, too, plus a sheet with ideas on how to mix and match. It’ll be fun to see an assortment of pastel sparklers in the hands of our pals; I can’t wait to see what our clever friends concoct.
1/4 to 1/2 ounce crème de cassis (or to taste)
Champagne or other dry sparkling wine
Pour the cassis into the flute, and top with the bubbly.
Garnish with a lemon twist, if desired.
If you want to play baseball with four strikes in an out, I’m not stopping you. Throw a party on February 31 — knock yourself out. Put “i” after “e”, wear white shoes before Memorial Day, spit into the wind, and mess around with Jim; I’m sure not going to be the one to tell you no. Because, really — contrary to popular belief — I don’t really give an animated rat‘s backside if you order a Mojito in a midwinter maelstrom. I just hope you know that we’re all laughing at you and the bartender’s spitting in your nachos.
In this permissive spirit, I encourage you to make your Bellini with any-ol’ peach puree. Heck, substitute cheap peach schnapps or metallic peach nectar from a can for all I care — I’m sure you’ll love it. But please don’t try to stop me from heading down to the nearest farmers market and finding myself a gorgeous, perfectly ripe heirloom peach. And seeing as how I’m just like that, I’m even going to make it a white peach… Signor Cipriani would be so proud!
You see, these lovely aperitivi are called Bellini not because they’re petite and pretty (which they undoubtedly are, when — ahem — traditionally concocted). But rather, it’s because their decidedly pink blush calls to mind the paintings of a certain Giovanni Bellini, a Renaissance painter who applied a deep, rosy glow to the togas, turbans, and other trappings of his art. Made with a standard yellow Prunus persica, the drink takes on a golden tone — more Klimt than Bellini — so some folks encourage the blush with a touch of raspberry. Which, you know, you could do also. And a very interesting cocktail you would have.
Just don’t make me call it a Bellini, or I’m liable to leave some rude remarks on your blog.
1 white peach
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 to 3 ice cubes
Sparkling wine, perferably prosecco or other off-dry bubbly
Peel and pit the peach. Cut into chunks and place in a blender with the lemon juice and ice. Puree very well, until the ice is liquefied and the peach well blended. (The resulting puree yields enough for 3 to 4 cocktails.)
Place 1-1/2 to 2 oz of the prepared puree in a Champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine, stirring constantly with a bar spoon to prevent too much foaming.
We had no idea when we planned our MxMo theme, but this month marks the first anniversary of Mixology Monday’s inception. So let’s raise a glass of (deliciously doctored) bubbly to Paul, and toast the continued success of everyone’s favorite spirited event.
Les Fruits Rouges
I got a little worried when the first four submissions included one or another small, reddish fruit — what a strange coincidence! (As you’ll see, the field diversified eventually.)
Out east in NYC’s Forest Hill, Sarah at Avenue Food whipped up a cocktail of her own — featuring Morello cherry juice, rye, orange bitters, and champagne — and dubbed it the Cherry Whiskey Fizz. Whiskey and cherries and bitters… hmm, sounds like an upside-down Manhattan (from Queens).
Speaking of upside down: It’s autumn Down Undah in Sydney, and Anna from Morsels & Musings retells the Greek myth of Erebos & Nyx. In the cocktail version of the tale, the sparkling light of wedding Champagne pairs off with dark, dusky blackberries and creme de mures — and sparks fly (in the form of cinnamon schnapps and Frangelico).
From the heartland, Pintoo of Cleveland’s own Lazy Weekend whips up strawberries and apricots in the blender, and combines them in a stem with pink Champagne: Voila! Mesdames et messieurs, vous présenton: La Rouge.
Rounding out the red fruits, blackcurrants make an appearance from (aptly enough) Scandanavia: Thinking Bartender George, currently residing in Stavanger, Norway brings us Russian Spring Punch — vodka, lemon juice, creme de cassis, lightened with bubbles and topped with a blackberry — plus plenty of tempting variations.
The Bourbon Kings
Our favorite new cocktail blogger, Dr. Bamboo brings us the Bourbon Lancer — those of you who find the Prince of Wales too sweet may prefer this simpler blend of bourbon, bitters, sugar and Champagne that shifts shape depending on your chosen mash. And who doesn’t love that mustachioed jug astride his valiant steed?
Over at My Bar, Your Bar, Matt gives us a drink named after the most famous hotel in his hometown of Louisville, KY. The Seelbach employs two types of bitters — and plenty of ‘em! — in a tag-team with bourbon and Cointreau, playing a little rough with the sparkling wine. Over on eG, Lancaster Mike says he never enjoyed champagne cocktails until he tasted this one.
Also on eGullet, Ktepi is thinking ahead to summertime with the Roasted Lemonade Champagne Cocktail — a very gentlemanly (or perhaps even ladylike) mixture of bourbon, bubbly, and both fresh and cooked lemons. Oooh, darlin’: I can’t wait for a hot day on the patio to try this one out.
Brandy (and her belle-soeur, Cognac)
eGullet sprits-and-cocktails forum host (and our Bernal Heights neighbor) Erik gets all fancy on us with the aptly named Rosey Fizz, a highball made with apple brandy, blood-orange juice, egg white, rose Champagne, rosewater, and homemade rose-hip granita. Having tasted Eric’s cocktail prowess first-hand, we’re sure this labor-intensive cocktail is worth the effort.
Up north in London ON, Darcy at The Art of Drink offers up the Laissez’ Affair, a study in elegant simplicity. Despite the brevity of the ingredient list — Champagne plus a titch of vanilla cognac (not, we are at pains to reinforce, “some cheap vanilla vodka or vanilla liqueur”) — this tipple proves itself anything but plain.
Ah, here’s the guest of honor, making a fashionably late appearance! Paul from The Cocktail Chronicles offers fair warning about bubbly drinks’ sucker punch, then explores his library for a less-dangerous variant. He brings home the Crimean Cup, which blends brandy and Champagne with maraschino, rum, orgeat, lemon juice, and soda water in a goblet, over ice. It must be springtime in Seattle!
Another eG county heard from: Andy (ThirtyOneKnots) chimes in with a recipe from Dr. Cocktail (aka Ted Haigh), known as the Soyer au Champagne. This silky “Champagne float” garnishes a mixture of equal parts brandy, Maraschino liqueur, curacao, and pineapple juice with — wait for it — a tablespoon of vanilla ice cream. How very, very naughty!
Also in this category: Prince of Wales
Secret Herbs and Spices
Wherin our faithful hero encounters all manner of roots and herbals….
The lone entrant featuring a home-brewed root infusion mixed with sparkling wine, Burdock Bubbly is Intoxicated Zodiac‘s Taurus-inspired cocktail. Gwen tells us that burdock has “a woodsy, earthy flavor” and that “in Britain the burdock/dandelion cordial is a best seller!” It’s also known as a blood purifier — a wise idea if you’re drink testing.
Over on eGullet, BostonApothecary pays tribute to Duke with a little number called Creole Love Call, jazzing up “a very sincere Champagne” with creole shrub, pimento dram and Peychaud’s bitters.
Also in this category: The lovely and talented Miss Chanteuse and the Rosemary Five.
Classics and their Kin
When I proposed this topic, I thought we’d see a lot of takes on The Big Four: Mimosa, Kir Royal, French 75, and the original Champagne Cocktail — drinks that come to mind when mixing sparkling wines with other ingredients. But, in reality, the number of original creations and uncommon concoctions far outweighed the biggies.
Susan at The Well-Seasoned Cook ponders the appearance of the original Champagne Cocktail in the cinema classic Casablanca, then tweaks it ever-so-gently with a shot of Campari — a bitter+sweet drink for a bittersweet love story.
Over at A Dash of Bitters, Michael combines gin, cardamom syrup, and plum puree into a cordial-like base for the Plum Royale, a drink that nods at the French 75 and adds a Kir-like blush. (The delicious-sounding cardamom syrup makes this one a candidate for the Herbs & Spices category, too. You see how hard this hosting gig can be??)
Katie Loeb (she of the eGullet Limoncello and Spicy Sangria that have earned their place in the MWD permanent collection) tarts up the classic brunch beverage. Adding red grapefruit-flavored vodka and lime juice to the usual OJ and fizz, she clevery dubs her remix the M-mosa.
Mercifully sparing us from a complete classic shut-out, the ladies of Liquor and Libations in Vancouver BC instruct us in the history — and proper spirits — of a French 75. I love the idea that it’s “like an extra special, extra tasty G&T, with champagne replacing the tonic”! (And a special shout-out to these first-time MxMo participants.)
Also in this category: The Ramblin’ Rose and the Poire Royale.
What a lovely turnout! Thank you all for making this edition of MxMo such fun to host.
Don’t forget: Today’s the day to post your champagne-based drinks for Mixology Monday 14!
Our final entry has me stumped. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why this very un-British cocktail would have the name it does. I found a reference to the history of Cointreau, which claimed that the one-time “Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, [was] a great connoisseur of French gastronomy” and, presumably, French spirits, too. Joe Gilmore at the Savoy invented an identically named (but very different) recipe in honor of the investiture of the current Prince of Wales, Prince Charles. But beyond that, I am at a dead end — if you know more about this drink, I’d love to hear it.
I do know that most recipes call for Triple Sec as the citrus-liqueur component of this drink, but Pegu Club bartenders make it with Benedictine instead, which provides herbal notes that take a bit of the edge off the sweetness of the other ingredients. The end result’s a slightly more-complex drink, which I prefer to the original.
Prince of Wales a la Pegu
3/4 oz. Cognac
3/4 oz. Benedictine (in lieu of the traditional Triple Sec)
1 dash Angostura bitters
dry sparkling wine, to fill glass
In a mixing glass or cocktail shaker, stir the Cognac, Benedictine, and bitters with ice until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass or champagne coupe. Fill with sparkling wine. Garnish with a wide piece of lemon peel or, alternately, a slice of orange.
Here’s another Champagne cocktail, in honor of next week’s Mixology Monday festivities.
A word-prankster of the highest order, Cameron turned to me at the bar one night and asked: “If you mixed Chartreuse and Champagne, would you get a Chanteuse?” I laughed, and then exclaimed: “Hey, wait — that sounds like a tasty drink!”
Back home, a bit of experimentation proved that the two ingredients alone weren’t really much of a cocktail. But add a few dashes of bitters and a splash of citrus, and you’ve got yourself a sparkling combination worthy of the fussiest diva.
1 oz. green Chartreuse
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
3 to 4 dashes orange bitters
In a Champagne flute, combine the Chartreuse, lemon juice, and bitters. Top with bubbly, and garnish with a lemon twist, if desired.
I was cruising through previous editions of Drink of the Week, and found that a suprising number of them have called for some form of bubbly. I guess you know my weakness now! Here’s a recap, in case you’re stuck for ideas:
Rosemary Five: You haven’t forgotten this one already…
Black Velvet: Guinness stout and bubbly
Gilded Pear: Pear Cognac, ginger-infused vodka, bubbly
Poire Royale: Pear Cognac or eau du vie, bubbly, raspberry
And here’s a new one, a riff off the classic Champagne Cocktail. but replacing the bitters with rosewater. At The Front Porch, our local Caribbean-meets-Soul joint, they’ve put together an interesting drinks menu despite their lack of a full liquor permit. Instead of the dreaded sake-tinis and soju-tails you often find at limited-license restaurants, all of their libations are based on ciders or bubbly.
from The Front Porch, San Francisco
1 sugar cube
Rosewater (available at BevMo and most grocery stores)
A pesticide-free rose
Soak a sugar cube in rosewater, and place in a flute or champagne saucer. Fill the glass with bubbly, and garnish with rose petal.
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I’ve confessed, repeatedly, to my tinkering tendencies. I never met a recipe that I couldn’t futz into an unrecognizable state. Now, it seems, my little problem is taking on a life of its own: I can’t even drink nice cocktails at perfectly respectable establishments without wondering just what might help make them a wee bit better.
This whole sorry tale started out a few months ago with a dinner at Perbacco, SF’s ultra-popular downtown ristorante. True to their Italian niche, the Perbacco bar menu features a number of cocktails that feel like a hip bartender’s fantasy of la dolce vita: a bit of Carpano Antica here, a splash of Prosecco there, a titch of amaro, and plenty of sassy citrus for everyone! The drink that caught my eye on our first visit — and held my fickle gaze on a return trip — is a pretty little thing called the Rosmarino: Grey Goose vodka, lemon juice, rosemary simple syrup, and Clear Creek apple brandy; shaken, up, rosemary garnish. As delicious as it was, the apple flavor seemed a little misplaced, and the rosemary notes a tad thin (despite the not-terribly appetizing bits of muddled herbage floating around).
Not long after this, I tasted another citrusy drink on the menu at Bemelmans Bar on our NYC trip. Christened La Cinque (that’s “the five” in Italian for you non-jetsetters), the menu listed pear vodka, moscato d’Asti, fresh lime, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters. Surely, it was a lovely combination, although the syrup combined with the sweet moscato to take the sugar hit right over the top.
I’d made a batch of rosemary syrup a couple weeks back — steeping a few sprigs of fresh rosemary in a warm batch of 1:1 simple syrup — in an effort to figure out precisely what was needed to fine-tune the Rosmarino to my liking. But time got away from me, and the jar of syrup ended up in the freezer. So when the time came to try to replicate La Cinque at home, I decided to combine these two Italian-inspired recipes into a single cocktail. It took a few tries to get the balance right; you’ll want to tinker with the syrup levels depending on the dryness of your bubbly. Using a bone-dry California sparkler, we needed the full 1/2 ounce; if you opt for a Prosecco or other off-dry option, you’ll likely need the lesser amount… unless you like your drinks on the sweet side.
The Rosemary Five
– adapted from La Cinque, Bemelmans Bar (NYC) and Rosmarino, Perbacco (SF)
1 oz. pear vodka or pear eau de vie (such as Absolut Pears or Clear Creek Williams Pear)
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
1/4 to 1/2 oz. rosemary simple syrup
3 dashes Angostura bitters
dry sparkling wine
Shake the vodka with the lime juice and syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a 6-ounce cocktail glass, and top with sparkling wine, to fill. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.
A gentle reminder from your host and hostess: You’ve now just over a week to break out the bubbly and show us your best Champagne cocktails for MxMo14. In the meantime, we’ll be posting a few other sparklies we’ve collected over the last couple of months… all in the name of “research”, dontcha know?
Whew! I made it to the end of April Fools’ Day without falling for any crazy practical jokes. Considering how easily I usually walk into pranks, it’s a minor miracle. (It probably helps that the only person I saw all day was my sweet guy, whose own brand of humor is more clever than cruel.)
We spent the day getting the downstairs rooms back in shape — no mean feat considering that they were inhabited by the two of us and two dogs for three months, with very limited storage to begin with. We also swapped the spaces that we use for our offices, which required a trip to Home Depot and Best Buy.
Big-box stores make me itch, so after visiting two in a single afternoon, I really felt like we deserved a treat. We were both so exhausted, there wasn’t a spare drop of energy for elaborate desserts. But we had a pint of strawberries, and a carton of cream… and a quick perusal of Joy of Cooking turned up an all-too-appropriately named dessert that even a fool could master.
1 pint strawberries
1T superfine (baker’s) sugar
1/2 pint heavy cream
3T ruby port
Rinsed, dry, top, and quarter the berries. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with the sugar; set aside. Meanwhile, whip the cream with the port until soft peaks form. Stir the sugared berries into the whipped cream, and refrigerate well before serving.
We’re pleased to be hosting Mixology Monday #14, and we’d like to propose a toast: To Champagne cocktails!
To participate, post an entry featuring any cocktail made with sparkling wine to your blog or similar site by midnight PST on Monday, April 16.
Please track back to this post, and send an email to chef(at)marriedwithdinner(dot)com with the subject “MxMo – Champagne”. Be sure to include the following information:
- Your name and city
- Your blog name and URL
- Name of your drink and URL for your MxMo entry
- Optional: a jpeg photo — preferably 150x200px or 200x150px — for the roundup page
Thanks for playing… Cheers!