A brief introduction to Champagne and where to buy it…
It’s not all about Champagne…
The first thing you need to know about champagne is that the word ‘Champagne’ is geographically patented and can only be used for a sparkling wine if it is made within the Champagne region of France. However the process used to make champagne is not exclusively used by the French (a common misconception).
This process itself is not an uncommon practice with products that sell well, think about Cognac and Cornish Pasties, and protects the so called quality of the product. Now that’s not to say that all champagnes are great because, trust me, there are not! But what it does mean is that a premium can be charged by companies for calling a product champagne. And without going into the economics of champagne making; they probably need it a lot more than the domestic companies…
What Champagne should you use in a cocktail anyway?
There are hundreds of different sparkling wines out there, as many as there are grape varieties in fact, but there is more to the world of cocktails than just champagne.
There was once a time when only the best champagne was used for cocktails, that was until other countries tried their hand at this so called ‘secret’ method of making sparkling wine. Sure they could never recreate the same processes the French used (for obvious legal reasons) but therein lied the secret to success: Their products were different, but in a good way. they do say after all that variety is the spice of life.
So then different countries had different products: Italy had Prosecco ( a slightly sweeter but essentially the same as the French) and as of the last couple of decades us English folk also started producing our Sparkling Wine. Prosecco is becoming more acclaimed and in some cases as highly regarded as the best champagnes.
Whilst English Sparkling Wine is in its infancy, it is pretty darn good, and winning awards all over the shop. Sure i’m English, and biased, but English Sparkling Wine is genuinely good (for the most part).
Of course you shouldn’t take my word for it, why not try it out for yourself? Or even get out there and try a tasting course or two?
Check out the links at the bottom for more information…
So where can you buy Champagne/Prosecco/Sparkling Wine?
As already stated they are all pretty much made the same way, meaning that if you can source one, chances are you can find all different kinds. The best/easiest places to start, here in the UK at least, are the supermarkets; places like Sainsbury’s, Tesco, ASDA, Morrisons, M&S & Majestic wines.
Then when you know what you’re looking for you can head online to speciality companies and even try out websites like TheWhiskyExchange and TheDrinkShop.
I first came across this recipe a few months ago, back when I was researching champagne cocktails for my Champagne Cocktails post. This was one of the ‘best of the rest’ that, after trying again recently, I just have to share with you all…
The big difference is in the fruit chosen; Lychee in the place of peach and, as with the bulk of Cocktails that include the little alien-looking fruit, it does indeed include a garnish using the fruit…
Drop the Lychee in the Chilled Champagne Flute and cover with the Lychee Liqueur.
Fill with the Prosecco.
This drink is both light and fruity, with the lychee giving an almost oriental feel to the otherwise European wine (a handy tip to make this a real oriental cocktail through and through is to try and find yourself some actual Asian sparkling wine (which might be difficult) as the taste improvement would be well worth it…
Carrying on from the product of the month post about Wild Hibiscus Flowers, this cocktail is all about class.
First served in 2006 at the Dorchester hotel, London; this cocktail remains one of the most popular champagne cocktails on their menu. This cocktail mixes some bold flavours to subtly build on the quality of the champagne used.
Whilst some of the ingredients can be hard to find, they should be available in most health food shops or failing that they are all available online…
Hibiscus Royale Recipe:
7ml Natural Rose Water
20ml Wild Hibiscus Syrup
4-6 Mint leaves
Top up Champagne
1) Muddle the mint in the glass and discard.
2) Stand a hibiscus flower upright in the glass.
3) Add the rose water.
4) Top up with champagne.
5) Finally, pour the hibiscus syrup in and let it descend through the champagne.
Fervent Shaker Top Tip: Feel free to remove the rose water and add a little flavour enhancer of your own, flavoured liqueurs always work, and not to mention flavoured sugar syrups…
This cocktail is just one of many available for you to read through on the Wild Hibiscus official site. From champagne cocktails to Daiquiris they have a wide selection worth checking out, especially if you are looking for something a little different for your party…
So you’re on your way to a party/event at your friend’s house, you’ve been looking forward to this for your entire week. It’s their 21st birthday and you know they have a cocktail party planned. But you hope they don’t expect you to drink champagne. You hate champagne.
As you walk in you are offered a flute glass full of a colourful bubbly liquid… Oh crap. You hate champagne you hear yourself say, but there is something different. You take a leap of faith and try the drink. You’re hit first off with the horrible champagne flavour you’re more than accustomed with but then something different, something floral, is it apple? No, Elderflower, and the distinct taste of raspberry. The light pink hue should have given it away, but you thought it was that novelty pink champagne. Then you notice everyone’s drinks… Greens, blues, reds and more pinks like yours.
“I hate champagne…” you hear yourself say “…But I love this”…
Before we continue… I would like to make it very clear that Champagne is a sparkling wine with a geographical protection (like stilton cheese, and those Cornish pasties) and this means that the word ‘Champagne’ is only aloud to be used by companies making sparkling wine within the ‘Champagne’ region of France and other companies that do not stick to this region are, by law, not allowed to advertise their product as a champagne. There are some fantastic products out there that are not allowed to ‘honour’ of being called champagne, but in my opinion are far better in quality. No matter your feelings on sparkling wine, find a product you like and try some of the recipes out.
I have a friend I work with who will do almost anything for his favourite branded bottle of champagne, even more so when they are on offer (you know who you are!). In a complete contrast I stand in opposition; preferring a supermarket brands Prosecco, Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference (TTD) Prosecco Conegliano to be precise.
In my experience, the protection ’champagne’ has allows companies to charge ridiculous prices for their rather bog-standard product (with the exception of some of the more well-known brands). Reverse-wise some of the best Italian Prosecco and other worldwide sparkling wines are just as good as some of the lower scale champagnes. So for the remainder of this blog, whenever I use the word champagne I do not just mean champagne, I mean sparkling wine in general.
Champagne cocktails are as much about enjoyment as they are about flavour and appearance. No one wants to drink foul tasting cocktails, and I know a lot of people that do not appreciate champagne enough to disagree with the post’s opening scenario… However there is more to champagne than serving the bottle’s contents in a glass and forcing everyone to drink it. Champagne although not primarily made for it, is a fantastic cocktail mixer. It has a better depth of flavour than lemonade and is generally a better choice than the foul soda/tonic waters flooding the supermarket shelves.
This brings us onto the cocktails themselves and there are many varied, famous cocktails. Almost all of which hold some sort of colourful back-story as to how they were invented, however for the premise of this blog I am far from interested in the stories. I’m more interested in the cocktails and their recipes. Now discarding the recipes with what I like to call ‘dangerous’ ingredients (ingredients people generally shy away from when making cocktails at home; such as egg whites), the recipes to be discussed here are generally fruity, floral drinks with a very easy-to-consume nature about them.
We’ll start with the classics like the Kir Royale and the mimosa. Then go onwards to the lesser known and more complicated cocktails; such as the Clicquot Rico and Shanghai Fizz.
The main thing to remember with these cocktails is that they can be expensive to test at home (champagne is very expensive and even some of the cheaper cava’s can cost around £10 per 75cl bottle) so you may want to try a few out and about at first to get an idea of what flavours you prefer, then you can cut the cost a little.
“A smart drinker is a happy drinker”
1) Whilst no ice is used in champagne cocktails, you should chill the champagne in the bottle thoroughly prior to use.
2) Unless otherwise stated these drinks are built (poured in one by one) in the serving glass.
3) Whilst using cheaper alternatives to Champagne (Prosecco, Cava etc…) is perfectly reasonable, where necessary, champagne brands that are in the original recipe for the cocktail will be named (i.e. the Veuve Clicquot in the Clicquot Rico). Feel free to still use the cheaper alternative if you want/need to.
2 measures Orange Juice
1 measure Champagne
This drink is the one cocktail everyone thinks of when you mention Champagne cocktails. The Mimosa is thought of as a bit of a light cocktail – purely because of the lack of any serious amount of alcohol. This is not really a bad thing as it makes it perfect for those fancy soirees where you want to keep guests sober for the majority of the night. However the downside is that whilst it is simple, it can become rather boring rather quickly (not to mention people who have an Orange Juice allergy – it does exist and is more common than you might believe).
You may be part of the majority of people that believe a Bucks Fizz is the correct name for the above recipe but, sorry to say, you would be very wrong. If you lower your gaze all shall be explained:
2 measures Orange Juice
¼ measure Plymouth Gin
1 small dash Cherry Brandy
Top Up Champagne
Now this is the true bucks fizz. Rumour has it this was made back in the 1920’s for a captain ‘Buck’ and named after him. Of course nobody knows for sure, but little stories like this always add something special to a drink. The Bucks fizz as you can see is similar to the Mimosa and this is why the confusion becomes popular. Whilst Supermarkets sell bottles of ‘Bucks Fizz’ you’re actually drinking a Mimosa (that’s a little quiz fact for you right there).
20ml Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
35ml London Dry Gin
15ml Lychee Syrup
1tbsp Sugar syrup
Top up Rose Champagne
Shake the first 4 ingredients over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Top up with chilled rose champagne, then garnish with a white orchid petal (this is a bit uppity but it really shows some class, however a white rose petal will do just fine).
1tbsp Vanilla Sugar
1 passion fruit, you just need the seeds.
Top up Champagne.
This cocktail adds a little tropical flavour to your otherwise classic champagne cocktail. It’s surprising what a little passion fruit and a splash of vanilla sugar…
Top Tip: It’s best to use the shallower cocktail glasses as opposed to the traditional flutes purely because it’s easier to keep the puree mixed in with the champagne in the shallow ones.
Classic Champagne Cocktail
This is the original champagne cocktail, and is by far the most ‘old-fashioned’…
1 white sugar cube
2 dashes of Angostura bitters (or bitters in a flavour of your choice)
Top up with champagne.
Dab the sugar cube with the bitters and drop into the flute. Then add the cognac and then add the champagne just before serving. Fill completely.
This cocktail is a fantastic example of the classic cocktail culture, the different levels and depths of flavour help make this drink what it is. This is a cocktail you should all try. Even if you don’t like it you can say you tried one.
Kir & Kir Royale
25ml Crème de Cassis
1 sugar cube
Top up with sparkling wine (for a Kir)
Top up with Champagne (for a Kir Royale)
Pour the Cassis into the flute, drop the sugar cube in, and once it has soaked up some of the cassis (once it goes purple) add the sparkling wine/champagne.
This drink gets sweeter as you drink it and is rather popular among party goers…
Here’s a little fact for you: The Kir and Kir Royale are pretty much the same drink. The only discernible difference between them is that the Royale uses Champagne and the Kir uses sparkling wine. Obviously the Royale was used to impress guests of over pretentious party hosts, allowing them to let everyone know they had enough money for quality champagne and not just any old sparkling wine. Whilst back in the early days of sparkling wine production champagne was most certainly the best quality, these days certain sparkling wines are just as good as, if not better than, some top champagne brands…
1tbsp crème de cassis
2tsp Elderflower cordial
25ml Golden grapefruit juice
Top up with Champagne
This cocktail is a little more complicated but the flavours more than make up for it. You shake the 4 ingredients in a shaker over a little ice and strain into a flute glass. Top that up with champagne and you have a very floral fruity, but tart champagne cocktail.
Top tip: Try switching up the elderflower cordial for St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, and the cassis for blackcurrant cordial (Ribena is a good shout) for various, subtle flavour changes.
The last 4 cocktail recipes are more hybrids of other cocktails mixed with champagne… not all work but some, some are fantastic. These are the latter…
The Mimosa Wallbanger
50ml Orange Juice
12.5ml Vanilla Liqueur
Top up with Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Prosecco Conegliano
One of my own recipes, this cocktail is a perfect blend between a Mimosa and a Harvey Wallbanger. It adds a small amount of extra class to an already suave drink. The added fizz makes it a little more refreshing and tad-lighter on the palate…
Peach & Gin Champagne Fizz
12.5ml Peach Schnapps
Top up with champagne
Whilst no the most exotic and original of names, this cocktail blends stronger alcohol with the champagne to give it a little kick, but adds the fruity peach flavour to help make it taste a little bit fantastic.
Ginger Champagne Cooler
3 Strips of pickled ginger (use fresh ginger if unavailable)
2 tbsp. Vodka
Top up with well-chilled quality champagne.
This cocktail spices things up a bit and adds a little fire into your drink. Not for the faint of heart, this drink will catch you unawares and punish you if you’re not careful. Drink it responsibly and you’ll love it.
Perfect for a cold autumn night (or a fancy summer shindig).
15ml Peach Schnapps (i.e. Archers/Teichenne)
15ml Blue Curacao
Top up with a quality sparkling wine.
This cocktail combines both the classy Bellini with that cult favourite liqueur: Blue Curacao. This drink becomes a citrusy, fruity bright blue cocktail. Serve with ice cold sparkling wine…
25ml White Rum
50ml Pineapple Juice
Top up with Veuve Clicquot Champagne
This cocktail may seem a little old fashioned, but that’s the beauty of it. When combined with ice cold champagne, the otherwise dull rum and pineapple comes alive. It has a warming feel thanks to the rum, and a slightly exotic feel thanks to the pineapple, add in the champagne and you have pure class.
Top tip: Veuve Clicquot is rather expensive (£30+ in most supermarkets, even when on offer). Another option for those on a budget is a light and refreshing Prosecco (Try Sainsbury’s TTD Prosecco Conegliano – it works quite well).
Next time on the Fervent Shaker Blog:
“So why are supermarkets tapping into the cocktail market?”
“Is there any need for this tapping up of liqueurs by the big supermarkets or are they just out for profit?”
“Do supermarkets indirectly aid the rising popularity in cocktails across the UK?”
“What role do supermarkets play in the current state of the UK ‘cocktail scene’? And what part will they play in years to come?”
All these questions and more, coming in the near future with my blog post:
“Supermarkets & Cocktails: A bitter truth or sweet dream?”
I’ll be looking at the growing part supermarkets are playing in the cocktail culture of the UK. As well as trying to shed some light on how flexible their choices are when it comes to the products they sell… Between now and then keep an eye out for cocktail recipes; I’ll be posting individual recipes as I find/try them. Keep mixing folks!