It’s hard to believe, but Labor Day is nearly upon us — one last chance for a boozy brunch party or all-day grill-out. (At least, one that’s sanctioned by the calendar.) For whatever your exploits this coming weekend, we recommend you grab a bottle of bubbles, start work on one of these three fine cocktails in advance — and then just top ‘em off with bubbly at the last minute.
You’ll be the hero of your own party. And while we generally advocate measuring your cocktail ingredients with precision, here’s a secret: If you top these cocktails with a little more or little less sparkling wine, nobody’s gonna know the difference.
Berry French ’75
Mixologists love to talk about spirits infused with this or syrups infused with that, but here’s a secret: It’s not nearly as fancy as it sounds. “Infusing” basically just means “letting two things sit, then strain.” So if you want to make a berry-infused gin? Pour some gin on some berries, and strain it out the next day. Done.
From that base, it’s a snap to make a berry French 75 with lemon and bubbles. Make a bottled batch with everything but the sparkling wine in advance, then pull this out at party time. Who won’t be impressed that you infused your own gin?
Instructions: Add 1 1/4 cup of fresh strawberries and 3/4 cup of fresh blueberries to a container and pour a 750ml bottle of Beefeater (or another London Dry gin) over the top. Seal the container and let it sit overnight. Strain tomorrow, and you’ve got berry gin.
The next day, combine 12 ounces of berry gin, 9 ounces of fresh lemon juice, 6 ounces of simple syrup, and 8 dashes of orange bitters in a bottle. Refrigerate that until your party.
To serve, pour into 8 glasses and top with 2 ounces of bubbles. Garnish with more berries.
Watermelon & Mint
This time of year, we’re eating as much watermelon as we can get our hands on. And drinking it, too. Whizzing watermelon in a blender with mint, lemon, and vodka gives you a simple cocktail that becomes even more summer-friendly with a big float of bubbles. Again, feel free to make the watermelon cocktail base in advance, and just whip it out of the fridge at the last moment.
Instructions: Chop up 4 cups of watermelon, and put in a blender with just a little bit of water, to get the blades going. Blend until totally liquefied, and then strain. You should get about 16 ounces; measure it out to be sure. Back in the blender, combine 16 ounces watermelon juice with 8 ounces of vodka, 2 ounces of fresh lemon juice, 2 ounces of simple syrup, and a few handfuls of mint leaves (we used about 50). Blend that up together and strain again.
Keep that in a bottle in your fridge, and for each drink, pour 3 1/2 ounces of the watermelon mixture over ice, then top with 1 ounce of bubbles. Garnish with mint and a little bit more watermelon. Makes 8 drinks.
Usually, we top drinks with bubbles; for this drink, we’re reversing the order. Pour sparkling wine in a glass, top with the Campari-grapefruit slush, and it basically mixes itself. Just bitter enough and super-refreshing.
Instructions: To make 3-4 drinks, in a blender, combine 4.5 ounces of Campari and 3 ounces of fresh grapefruit juice with 3/4 ounce simple syrup and 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice. Add 6 cups of ice and blend until super slushy. Take four rocks glasses, and add about 1 ounce of sparkling wine to each one. Top with the grapefruit-Campari slush. Garnish with straws and a half-moon of grapefruit.