As we turn the page on 2010, it’s time for a Champagne cocktail.
Got the deep-freeze, wintertime blues as New Year’s approaches? Sun lamps can help you beat back the feeling. So can a weekend trip to a tropical locale. But personally, when the snow and ice has me feeling a bit glum, I find that a nice glass of Champagne always hits the spot.
Champagne has a magic-like ability to enliven almost any social gathering. Perhaps this characteristic is the result of the way the bubbles tickle the throat, or the effect that the mixture of alcohol and carbon-dioxide has on the blood stream. No doubt it is this invigorating aspect of Champagne’s nature that has made it such a popular winter drink.
Unfortunately, with the weak dollar, and increasing production costs, kosher Champagne is more expensive than ever, with retail prices ranging from $60 to $125 per bottle. Even prices for budget-level sparklers from Spain, Italy, and France are on the rise. In today’s economic environment, that makes kosher sparkling wine a luxury that many consumers simply cannot afford.
One way to reduce the cost of serving sparkling wine is by serving it in cocktails and punches. In Champagne cocktails and punches, the Champagne may account for as little as half the volume of the resulting drink. A good Champagne cocktail or punch will preserve, and even showcase the effervescent nature of dry, sparkling wines, while blending it with new and interesting flavors. So for this month’s Fruit of the Vine, we’ve come up with five good, easy-to-make cocktail or punch recipes for the winter.
When making Champagne cocktails and punches, it is not necessary to use fine Champagne, but don’t use the cheapest sparkling rotgut you can find either. A few good choices of kosher sparklers for use in cocktails and punches are Bartenura Prosecco, Bellenda Prosecco, and Herzog Selection Blanc de Blancs, all of which should cost less than $20.
So the next time you are hosting friends and family, think about getting some juices, liqueurs, and a bottle or two of sparkling wine, and have a little fun fighting those wintertime blues.
All of the following cocktails should be served in six-ounce Champagne flutes. All liquid ingredients should be chilled before use.
The Champagne Cocktail
This is the original 19th-century Champagne Cocktail, and one of the few cocktails whose popularity has never waned.
1 sugar cube
1 lemon peal twist
1-2 tbsp. Cognac (optional)
Place the sugar cube in the bottom of the flute and douse with a few dashes of Angostura bitters. After a few minutes fill with sparkling wine and garnish with a lemon peal twist. If you add in a tablespoon or two of Cognac right before filling with the wine, you have made a cocktail that was once known as the Maharajah’s Burra-Peg in British India, or as the Kings Ruin in 1920s France.
According to legend, this ever-popular cocktail was invented at the bar of the Ritz Hotel in Paris sometime after the First World War.
3-4 tbsp. orange juice
½ tbsp. triple-sec liqueur (optional)
Add orange juice and triple-sec to the flute, stir briefly, and fill with sparkling wine. Although many contemporary recipes for Mimosa call for much more orange juice, such recipes will result in a drink where the flavor of the wine is lost. Use only two tablespoons of orange juice if adding the triple-sec.
Death in the Afternoon
This aromatic cocktail was the invention of “Papa” Ernest Hemingway. While living in Paris in the 1920s, Hemingway killed many an afternoon drinking this cocktail in various bars and cafes.
1 tbsp. of absinthe or pastis
1 tsp. water
Add the absinthe or pastis and water to the flute, stir until the liquid turns cloudy, and fill with sparkling wine.
Legend has it that this black-colored mixture of stout and Champagne was first created in 1861 at London’s Brooks Club in an attempt to display the custom of proper mourning the passing of Prince Albert. Although the traditional recipe calls for equal parts of Champagne and stout, I prefer to make my Black Velvet with porter, and only a small amount of it.
3 tbsp. of stout or porter
Add beer to the flute and slowly fill with sparkling wine.
Champagne Punch (serves 12-14)
This recipe is adapted from a recipe found in the world’s first cocktail guide, Jerry Thomas’s 1862 book, “How to Mix Drinks or the Bon Vivant’s Companion.” Although it is called a “Champagne” punch, it can be made with any good, dry, sparkling white wine.
3 bottles of dry sparkling wine
¾ cup of Kedem raspberry syrup
the juice of three lemons, freshly squeezed
½-¾ cup of simple syrup, to taste
½ of a pineapple, peeled, cored, and sliced
3 oranges, thinly sliced.
a block of ice
Place the pineapple slices in the bottom of the punch bowl and smash them with your fingers, or a potato masher, to express some of the juice. Put in the block of ice and add the lemon juice, raspberry syrup, and ½ cup of simple syrup. Pour in the wine, stir and taste. Add the additional ¼ cup of simple syrup if necessary, and float orange slices on top of the punch as a garnish.
Please note: As sugar dissolves slowly in cold liquids, it is best to use a simple sugar syrup in punches. (To make simple syrup, heat equal parts of superfine sugar and water over a low flame until the sugar is fully dissolved. One can also buy a pre-made simple syrup, such as Monin’s Pure Cane Syrup.) When making punch one should also always use a solid block of ice, at least three or four inches thick on each side, as ice cubes will melt much too quickly and will dilute a punch. It is also important that all the ingredients, and the punch bowl itself, are well chilled before making the punch.
Fruit of the Vine appears monthly.