No matter what the situation, what the circumstances, the occasion, the relationship, two things are always appropriate: flowers and Champagne. I propose a new year’s resolution – let’s stop reserving these for other people’s weddings. I propose we drink more sparkling and give more flowers.
A quick note on Champagne – skip this part if you are a wine buff. Champagne is a region in France. Technically, only sparkling wine produced in that region qualifies as Champagne. There are also other rules that prescribe which varieties of grapes are allowed, how they are grown, how the grape juice is fermented, etc. We often use the word to refer to all sparkling wines, like we might say Frisbee® instead of flying disk. So, all Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. Sparkling wine from Italy is called Prosecco, and Prosecco is the type of grape, not the region. Sparkling wine from Spain is Cava, which refers neither to the region nor the grape, but rather to the process of aging the wine in caves. Why didn’t all these countries get together and come up with one common way of identifying their product? Because each of their ways is the best way… obviously.
Originally used in coronations, Champagne has become synonymous with celebration, opulence, luxury. Why wouldn’t we want more of that mixed in with our daily grind? Champagne has already found its way into breakfast – mimosas combine the craving for alcohol with the socially acceptable morning ritual of orange juice. In addition to protein and vitamin C, orange juice offers the magic that turns drinking before noon into a respectable practice. Awesome.
Champagne during the day is a no brainer, right? It’s light, refreshing, it complements any lunch fare, a crystal flute looks amazing in the dainty fingers of ladies who lunch. No time for lunch? Meet for a glass of sparkling. Finished with lunch? Have a glass of bubbly. Accidentally set two lunch dates for one day? Make the first one oysters and Champagne, and you’ll be even hungrier for the second.
So what do we do with Champagne in the evening? First, I repeat, that Champagne is always appropriate, and there is never anything one needs to do with it. But if you’ve imbibed Champagne sans additifs for breakfast and lunch, then in the interest of variety, consider sparkling cocktails.
One of my favorites is the “French 75.” Think of a mimosa kicked up a notch with gin. Want to kick it up two notches? Forget the gin, and just pour champagne over Absinthe – that favorite of Ernest Hemingway is called “Death in the Afternoon.” If you are not quite ready to hallucinate the green fairy, make a “Kir Royale” by pouring some Crème de Cassis into a glass of champagne. It will layer and make a magenta ombre cocktail – simple, beautiful, delicious. The classic is of course, the “Champagne Cocktail” which is Champagne seasoned with sugar and aromatic bitters. Pour slowly, the bitters make the sparkling wine extra bubbly, and enjoy to the last sip – it’s the sweetest.
I have this dream of a “Champagne out of the bottle” party. There will be no glasses, and everyone will indulge in both the most basic and the most elevated – Champagne right out of the bottle. Nobody will keep track and nobody will raise their pinky, and everyone will laugh and say what they mean and look directly into each other’s eyes. I think 2020 will be the Year of Champagne.
Shake one ounce each of gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup and strain into a flute. Top with Champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.
Death in the Afternoon
Pour 1 ounce of absinthe into a flute, top with Champagne.
Fill a flute almost all the way with Champagne and slowly pour half an ounce of Crème de Cassis on top.
Put a sugar cube in a flute, soak it with a few dashes of aromatic bitters, top with Champagne.