Frontier Psychiatrist

Frontier Mixology: Champagne Cocktails

Posted on: February 11, 2011

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and an appropriate cocktail is in order.  Of course, one could scour the bar books to come up with something appropriately reddish pink or with a fitting name like the Have A Heart cocktail.  To my mind, however, Valentine’s Day means Champagne.  Christopher Hitchens’s infamously included Champagne together with picnics, lobster, and anal sex in his list of the four most overrated items on the planet. Given that Mr. Hitchen’s positions are not always the most defensible, I’ll leave it to the reader to consider the inclusion of one or more of his other prohibitions in what could be a most memorable Valentine’s indeed, but Champagne is a must.

Specifically, starting a Valentine’s dinner with a champagne cocktail and oysters is the way to go.  There are any number of cocktails that employ sparkling wine as an ingredient, but the foremost amongst such concotions is simply called the Champagne Cocktail. The recipe from the 1862 edition of How to Mix Drinks or the Bon Vivant’s Companion is the classic.

Champagne Cocktail

½ oz. Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

1 sugar cube

4 dashes of bitters

5 oz. brut Champagne, chilled

Pour the liqueur into a champagne flute, top with the wine.  Put the sugar cube on a small spoon, saturate with the bitters, and drop into the flute.  Garnish with a lemon twist.

There is no getting around the conspicuous consumption that this drink represents. Champagne was (and remains) expensive.  Further, a really great Champagne should probably be enjoyed on its own, although there are worse ways to waste good champagne. For cocktails, a more budget-minded approach is to use a domestic sparkling wine such as the brut from Gruet, a New Mexico winery run by a Frenchman.  In addition, a wonderful variation on the Champagne Cocktail comes from the bar book put out by the founders of Employees Only.

Secret Crush

5 oz. brut rosé sparkling wine

¾ oz. Campari

sugar cube

4 dashes of bitters

Same procedure as the Champagne Cocktail, above.

With this one, you even get the color right.  Enjoy the picnic.

Drink up,


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