Champagne (Cocktails) for Everyone!

26 Apr

What is the ultimate celebratory beverage? If your answer is “Champagne!” you are only half-correct. The real answer is the classic champagne cocktail.

Champagne cocktails are a Chamberlain Christmas tradition – at the beginning of Christmas dinner, you will always find my father and uncles at a makeshift bar concocting these drinks in my grandparents’ elegant champagne coupes. While other people associate Christmas with mince pies and turkey, I think of the fragrance of bitters and good cognac mixed together. I have come to love this tradition so much that when T and I got married, we served champagne cocktails at our reception.

It did take me a while to come around to them, as it is a very grown-up cocktail: booze flavoured with booze and topped with more booze. But they are a great example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts – the bitters and sugar bring out the fruity and aromatic qualities of the champagne and cognac. Be warned though – this is one of those drinks which you need to consume slowly, no matter how good it tastes!

A technical note; when you make this drink, you have a choice of glasses: coupes or flutes. If you are using flutes, you will need to make a batch of simple syrup for your sweetener. It is dead easy – just put equal weights of water and sugar in a saucepan, heat and stir until all the sugar is dissolved (you will feel the difference in texture on the bottom of the pan), then leave to cool. For a party of 15 people I would dissolve 150g sugar in 150ml water. If you have leftovers, it stays good for ages and is ideal for making lemonade.

And lastly – because you are using booze to flavor other booze, do not use cheap rubbish. I am not saying this as a snob, but because I want to save you being disappointed. I’m not talking about Cristal and Hennessy here, but this is not the time to stint on ingredients. Keep an eye out for name-brand VSOP cognac (supermarkets will put this on sale around Christmastime) and bubbly you’d be very happy to drink on its own.

The Classic Champagne Cocktail

Place 1 sugar cube (coupe) or a half-tablespoon simple syrup (flute) at the bottom of the glass.

Add 4-5 dashes Angostura bitters.

Add 1 tablespoon cognac.

If using the sugar cube, use a spoon or a small muddler to crush it into the cognac.

Top with champagne. (If using flutes, you will need to tilt the glass and pour slowly to ensure all ingredients combine.)

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