How Chefs Do Champagne

Food & Wine: How Chefs Do Champagne
© Dale Anderson
By Justine Sterling Posted December 31, 2013

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are both Champagne-drenched holidays. Here, tips from star chefs and mixologists on how to make the most of two days full of sparkling wine.

Drink it with your morning juice. It’s never too early to start drinking Champagne (as long as you’ve got the day off work). Chef Vikram Sunderam of Rasika Penn Quarter and Rasika West End likes to mix his with mango or peach juice for a sweet, refreshing bellini. Locanda Verde’s Karen Demasco suggests making seasonal mimosas with blood orange purée.

Cook with it. While Champagne is a delicious and versatile accompaniment to food, it is also a great way to add acidity and lightness to dishes. Island Creek Oyster Bar chef and owner Jeremy Sewall likes to serve raw oysters with a mignonette made with berry-rich sparkling rosé. Italian chef Antonio Ciminelli likes to add sparkling wine to the batter for his fritto misto for light and crispy results.

Go big with it. “Champagne [or sparkling wine] is a great thing to buy—and if you can get a magnum, even better,” says Shawn McClain of Green Zebra in Chicago. He likes Roederer Estate, Ruinart, Billecart-Salmon and, of course, Dom Pérignon.

Mix cocktails with it. A little bit of sparkle improves many drinks. New Orleans Chef John Besh transforms a summery mojito into a wintry favorite by topping it with a splash of sparkling wine and serving it in flutes. A margarita also benefits: For the Mexico 70, bartender Ryan Fitzgerald mixes tequila with lime juice and agave nectar, then tops with sparkling wine and garnishes with a lime wheel.

Use it to punch up punch. Punch is one of the smartest things to make for a party. By pre-batching a bowl, hosts ensure that they’re not stuck behind the bar making individual drinks for every guest. Maria Helm Sinskey of Napa’s Sinskey Vineyards makes a refreshing punch with sweet-tart pomegranate juice and bright, sparkling Prosecco. It takes no time at all to make 12 servings.

Keep it cool. Champagne is a volatile creature, a fact that chef Gavin Kaysen of Café Boulud found that out the hard way. “I was making a lobster sauce at Chandon and needed Champagne. I had a bottle sitting next to the stove, and it got so hot, the cork popped. The Champagne went everywhere, and the cork hit chef Robert Curry in the shoulder.”

Related: Sparkling New Year's Eve Cocktails
New Year's Eve Recipes for a Crowd
Champagne Pairings for a New Year's Eve Party

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