Photography by Koji Yano
Upon sipping his very first glass of champagne, 17th-century monk and winemaker Dom Pérignon allegedly shouted, “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” He was probably seeing stars the next morning, too, but apocryphal or otherwise, the anecdote illuminates champagne’s lasting appeal: Nothing says “party” like the pop of a cork. Champagne is the most glamorous and jubilant of wines, so why not incorporate some bub in your summer cocktails?
The simplest variation is the traditional champagne cocktail, typically sipped on New Year’s Eve or after a newly announced engagement (no pressure, folks). To make one, plop a sugar cube into a tall flute, follow with a few drops of Angostura bitters (or sour cherry bitters for bite and color), and fill to the rim with the fizz of your choice.
Then there’s the principal reason for brunch: the mimosa. Keith Nelson, beverage director at New York’s Arlington Club, retools the eggs benedict sidekick with his version, the Phillips Head, adding Combier Pamplemousse Rose, a grapefruit liqueur, to orange juice and bubbly.
According to Nelson, not all sparkling wine has to come from the Champagne region. You can stray to the southern Mediterranean, too. “Prosecco is the obvious choice, with a favorable price/ quality ratio,” he says. “But crémant de Bourgogne is a great option as well.”
Meanwhile, Meaghan Dorman, head mixologist at the Raines Law Room, concocts very ambitious bubbling brews. “Champagne cocktails fit the mood for summer,” she says, “and they’re great with fresh summer fruit muddled in.” Dorman adds cognac to the traditional sugar cube cocktail, and her delightful Sicilian Cobbler uses Campari, muddled blood orange, lemon, and the Italian sparkler Lambrusco.
The ultimate champagne cocktail, though, is the French 75, a mix of lemon juice, simple syrup, bubbly, and gin. Try a French 76 by substituting vodka, or throw caution to the breeze and make a Mexican version with silver tequila and grapefruit juice. The namesake number denotes World War I’s French-made 75mm field shotgun, perhaps because you’ll feel gunned down after a few of these frothy libations. “Always go for brut bubbles when mixing,” advises Dorman (the lower the sugar content, the less Advil you’ll need the next morning).
So stop saving those dusty bottles of Dom for a rainy day. Instead, make these dog days special with a bubbling drink that, to paraphrase Pérignon, is like tasting a sunbeam.
Three Sparkling Cocktail Recipes
Michael Lomonaco, Center Bar
- 1 1/2 oz. fresh strawberry juice or puree
- 1 1/2 oz. ginger syrup
Pour juice and syrup into a coupe and fill to the brim with champagne. Garnish with sliced strawberry.
Keith Nelson, Arlington Club
- 1 part Combier Pamplemousse Rose
- 2 parts orange juice
Combine first two ingredients in a champagne flute garnished with a lime wheel. Top with prosecco.
Meaghan Dorman, the Raines Law Room
- 2 blood orange wheels
- 2 lemon wheels
- 5 oz. Campari
- 4 1/2 oz. Lambrusco
Combine blood orange and lemon in a white wine glass. Add Campari. Fill glass halfway with crushed ice. Add Lambrusco. Top with more crushed ice and add a straw.