Ten Classic Champagne Cocktails and Why You Should Never Make a Bellini With Champagne

“There are many observations you might make if you’d like to see your dinner party divide into two armed camps. ‘I like this Corbyn fellow’ might be a good one. Or what about ‘I really enjoyed my time in the Bullington’? But I submit that virtually nothing will polarise bon viveur opinion quite as much as admitting that you enjoy a pint of Black Velvet, as I do”

David Cottle, writing in Noble Rot

In this post:

  • ten best champagne cocktails
  • the cocktail not to make with champagne
  • making ‘champagne’ with white wine and soda

Do you need to use real champagne?

I may be talking wine-buff heresy, but with cocktails you don’t necessarily need to use the best champagne – New Zealand, for example, produces an excellent ‘méthode champenoise’, Lindauer Brut Cuvée, currently on offer for £5.99 in Calais – worth a trip to France.

Best champagne cocktails

What, then, are the best cocktails to make with champagne or ‘méthode champenoise’?

  • Classic champagne cocktail (with an angostura bitters-soaked sugar cube and Grand Marnier)
  • Kir Royale (with Crème de Cassis – or better – British cassis)
  • French 75 (with gin and lemon)
  • Poinsettia (with cranberry juice and Cointreau)
  • Volcano (with raspberry liqueur and blue Curaçao)
  • Death in the Afternoon (invented by Ernest Hemmingway, author of the book of the same name, “pour one jigger absinthe into a champagne glass. Add iced champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly”)
  • Raymond Massey (with ginger syrup and rye whiskey)
  • Bucks’ Fizz aka a Mimosa (with orange juice)
  • Elderflower – crush a couple of raspberries with a teaspoon of lime juice, top with elderflower cordial and then fill the glass with champagne
  • Black Velvet (with Guinness). Feeling adventurous? Try adding Marmite as they do at the 40th floor-high Duck and Waffle.

David Cottle, writing in Noble Rot, advises making the Black Velvet as follows:

“Forget poncing about with a champagne flute and trying to get the two drinks to sit in layers….you want a pint glass…. fill it halfway up with well-chilled Champagne. It has to be Champagne; cava or prosecco just won’t cut it. Moët & Chandon ordinaire as cold as it can be works extremely well. Pol Roget is also a knockout. The fruitier ones…don’t quite cut it…Then pour in some stout…. Guinness Original is customary.”.

For a very informative, and highly entertaining post on the attractions of the Black Velvet cocktail, go to the Greasy Spoon blog.

Black Velvet … best served in a beer glass…

Don’t use champagne to make a Bellini

And one not to make…. don’t try and make a Bellini (with peach juice) – it’s much better with prosecco – go here to find out how. For more ideas go to my Pinterest cocktail board.

…. and for a very informative article on the difference between champagne and prosecco, follow this link to the B.wine blog run by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable group of students at Bocconi University students in Milan.

Massive champagne cheat and Blumenthal experiment – how to make champagne at home

I’m a bit cynical about wine buffs in any case since reading Heston Blumenthal’s Fantastical Feasts. He’s trying to recreate an eighties dinner, and, recalling that champagne-popping decade, he thinks champagne chimes the right note, but since those excesses led to Black Monday, the 1987 financial crisis, he concocts the idea of producing an eighties champagne lookalike by pushing carbon dioxide through a well-known eighties cheap white wine, Blue Nun, using a very eighties contraption known as a SodaStream. Ours was soon consigned to the attic I remember, chapeau to Blumenthal for even managing to find one. In any case, to check whether or not it really is worth going to all this trouble he carries out research outside the Lloyds Building in the City offering financial gents both real and imaginary bubbly to try. “About a third of the people I asked thought that the Blue Nun was champagne, and even those who guessed right had no idea what was in the other glass”, Blumenthal relates. Incidentally this method is not new but it can be done with more style. Paul Roche in his 1998 published Cooking with a Poet, describes “I use the simple kind into which you plug a sparklet or compressed cylinder. Choose any cheap white wine, either dry or sweet. Instead of putting water into your soda-water-maker, put wine.

soda syphon
Use a vintage soda siphon for a rather more stylish approach than Blumenthal’s clunky white plastic SodaStream.

Proceed as usual and draw out ‘champagne”. If you use a sweet wine you could think of adding lemon in the style of the creative head waiter at the Palace St George. Talk about alchemy….

If you are dubious about this, and indeed, you question the scientific basis of Blumenthal’s investigation there is new research to corroborate his findings. The study, which is published in the Journal of Marketing Research, reveals that, for wine (the study was looking at wine, not champagne) to taste good people just have to think it’s expensive. Volunteers were given five different wines, and informed of their price (never believe a psychologist). As they tasted them their brains were scanned. Participants rated identical drinks more highly if they thought they were expensive, and their brains reacted in a different way. Interestingly, the researchers also found that some personality types were more susceptible to this self-delusion – people with low self-esteem, or ‘reward seekers’. I don’t know if they also factored in a better or worse sense of taste, but they should have!

Music to listen to as you make and sip

She keeps the Moët and Chandon in a pretty cabinet…. Queen’s classic hit

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