Mimosas and Bellinis have long reigned as the bubbly brunchtime cocktails of choice. But sparkling wine adapts itself to so many cocktails; why not branch out a bit?
For a good sparkling wine cocktail, of course, you'll need to start with a good sparkling wine. Don't use any wine you wouldn't drink on its own; $2 cava will not do your cocktails any favors. On the other hand, there's no need to break out the $60 a bottle Champagne, either.
We all know that Champagne is delicious, but pricey. Since it can only be made in a certain area if it's labeled "Champagne," the real stuff fetches a real premium. But there are fabulous sparkling whites made all around France, many from the same grapes as Champagne and many of which resemble it a great deal… while going for half the price or even less.
Today, we're using Coté Mas Cremant de Limoux Blanc Brut (which sounds confusing but just means it's a sparkling, dry white wine made in Limoux. Learn a few vocab words and wine gets a lot easier). It's a great sipper on its own, makes an excellent base for cocktails -- and, at around $13 a bottle, is wallet-friendly enough for a party.
First created in Louisville's Seelbach Hotel, this sparkler relies on a base of bourbon (what else, in Kentucky?) with a splash of orange liqueur. The classic has Cointreau, but we're using a dry Curcaco. It's boozier than your standard bubbly cocktail, a great start for an early-evening cocktail party; don't make this by the pitcher and knock 'em back at brunch, if you want to make it to dinner.
Instructions: Add half an ounce of Curacao (we like Pierre Ferrand) and an ounce of bourbon (such as Buffalo Trace) to a champagne flute. Add a hefty shake of bitters: 7 dashes of Angostura and 7 of Peychauds, if you have 'em. Top it all with 5 ounces of sparkling.
Intermediate: French 75
Another classic. The herbal bite of gin and fresh blast of lemon are always a good pairing, but especially with the lift of sparkling wine. Any gin-lover will find these easy to drink all night.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, pour an ounce of gin (we're big fans of Beefeater), 3/4 ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and half an ounce of simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water). Shake that all up, and strain into a coupe or flute. Top off with two ounces of bubbly.
Advanced: Garden Sparkler
While this summer sipper takes a bit of labor, in the making of fresh cucumber juice, it's dead simple. You just whiz cucumbers and water through a blender and then strain. Use the cucumber juice day-of, while it retains its vibrant green color. Make it by the pitcher for brunch parties.
Instructions: First, we're making cucumber juice. Cut up a fresh cucumber, keeping the skin on for color, and drop it into a blender. Add 1/4 cup of water: that's just to help it liquify. Blend it up until totally smooth, and then fine-strain it into a container. Dump the solids; the green liquid is your cucumber juice.
If you're making a single drink: to a cocktail shaker with ice, add half an ounce of gin (like Beefeater), half an ounce of cucumber juice, half an ounce of fresh lemon juice, and a quarter-ounce of honey syrup (equal parts honey dissolved in hot water). Shake it all up, strain into a wine glass with ice, and top off with four ounces of sparkling wine.
Or make it by the pitcher: 3 ounces of gin, 3 of fresh lemon, and 3 of cucumber, stirred up with 1.5 ounces of that honey syrup in a pitcher with ice. Top all that off with a full bottle of bubbly and garnish with fresh cucumber slices.