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Your Holiday Sipping Strategy: Champagne Cocktails
From the Wall Street Journal of Fri, 12 Dec 2014 21:26:26 EST
F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas

’TIS THE SEASON to be jolly. Translation: Chances are, you’ll be drinking. A lot. How to survive until the new year rings in? There’s moderation, sure. But here’s something else for your reveler’s toolbox: Champagne cocktails.

Drinks topped off with sparkling wine aren’t just appropriate at this time of year for their sheer festiveness or because your glamour factor instantly doubles when you hold one in your hand. They can be a smart, strategic choice for end-of-year imbibing. Cocktails made with the bubbly stuff are lighter and lower in alcohol than, say, a Manhattan or Martini. You can have several Champagne-based classics like the luscious, rum-and-honey-kissed Airmail or the bourbon-laced Seelbach and generally feel respectable in the morning. Try doing that with more spirit-forward drinks and good luck getting into the office before noon the next day.

Many of you are probably saying: Why would you drink good Champagne any other way than on its own? Or, perhaps: I don’t like Champagne cocktails—they’re too sweet. To the former: Have you ever had a well-made French 75? You’re missing out. To the latter: There’s more to Champagne cocktails than the bottomless brunchtime Mimosas we’ve all been subjected to.

Which brings us to the secret of making great Champagne cocktails at home: Choose the dry stuff. “When you have a drier sparkling wine, it’s easier to control the level of sweetness in a cocktail,” said Lynnette Marrero of DrinksAt6 consulting. If you’ve had a bad sparkling-wine cocktail, chances are it was made with an inexpensive, overly-sweet Cava or Prosecco. At Bar Agricole in San Francisco, where the sparkling-wine based Sleepyhead is the best-selling cocktail, the go-to bottle is a dry Cava by Suriol. At New York’s Dear Irving, where sparkling wine is often suggested when a guest asks for something refreshing, you’ll find cases of Duc de Romet Prestige Brut, a Champagne that’s dry and a relative bargain.

Which is another reason you may see more sparkling-wine cocktails popping up on drink menus: It’s now possible to find good Champagne that’s not exorbitantly priced. “There’s actually more affordable Champagne on the market now than [there was] even a few years ago,” said Meaghan Dorman, a bartender at Dear Irving. “A lot of smaller, grower Champagnes are priced really well for mixing drinks as opposed to the big brands, which are too expensive for most cocktails. It takes some research, but they’re out there.”

Sparkling-wine cocktails are also more food friendly than the average mixed drink. Oysters are a natural pairing choice, but so is practically anything, even french fries. Crunchiness, saltiness and delicate bubbles. Seriously. It’s quite possibly one of the best high-low combinations in the culinary world.

But when it comes down to it, here’s the real reason you should work more bubbly cocktails into your life: Few things are more fun in a glass. “They set a tone,” said Thad Vogler, co-owner of San Francisco’s Bar Agricole. “People underestimate the thrill of effervescence.”

This season’s most cocktail-friendly bubblies
From left: Duc de Romet Brut Prestige, De Conciliis Selim, Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Réserve, Scarpetta Timido, Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut
From left: Duc de Romet Brut Prestige, De Conciliis Selim, Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Réserve, Scarpetta Timido, Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas

Duc de Romet Brut Prestige, $30

“We use this a lot at [New York’s] Dear Irving because it’s really versatile and a bargain for a Champagne,” said bartender Meaghan Dorman. As a sipper, it provides notes of honey and apple and a pleasant chalky minerality.

De Conciliis Selim, $21

The problem with most Proseccos when it comes to cocktails is that they’re a little too sweet. Joe Campanale, co-owner and beverage director of New York’s Epicurean Group, recommends this fresh, lively sparkler as an alternative—it’s made using the same method, but is much less fruit-forward.

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Réserve, $30

Lynnette Marrero of DrinksAt6 consulting likes this pleasantly balanced bubbly. It delivers an aroma of pear and apple, and delicate bubbles that seem to go on forever.

Scarpetta Timido, $27

Try this one in any cocktail that calls for a sparkling rosé, or if you simply want to give your cocktail a more festive hue. “It’s dry, but with bright red fruit flavors,” said Mr. Campanale.

Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, $39

Mr. Campanale often goes for this as a substitute for Champagne. “It has the same complex yeasty notes and bright acidity,” he said.

Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut, $12

“A great choice, as its dryness plays well with the sweetness of liqueurs and syrups,” said Ms. Marrero. Plus, you can’t beat the price. Buy a case and work on your mixology skills.

This article is provided by, which is published and distributed by Paolo Cirio Ltd., registered in England, number 8188080. Registered Office: Suite 36, 88-90 Hatton Garden, City of London, EC1 N8PG, United Kingdom. Paolo Cirio Ltd. alone is responsible and liable for information and services provided through Daily Paywall’s newspaper and website.

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