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How to Mix With Sparkle

Something about sparkling wine always makes me feel like I’m celebrating.

I have been a huge fan of Prosecco ever since a trip to Northern Italy a few years ago. With just a few crisp sips I’m transported back to a particular romantic evening in Florence, watching those golden bubbles rise in my glass, laughter also bubbling. The waiter set a plate of miniature live crustaceans before me with their antennae waving. (I sent the unfortunate creatures back, and ordered the vegetable risotto.)

Yet somehow, I never quite warmed to Champagne. Someone is sure to shout me down as a heathen, or at best a victim of cheap champers, but honestly, I’m usually okay passing.

Unless it’s part of a cocktail.

The French 75 is one of my favorite classics. Usually made with Cognac (or gin); sugar, lemon juice, it’s topped up with brut Champagne. But I’m just as delighted with an Italian 75 in which Prosecco is subbed for French bubbly. And of course, a switch to Cava would make it a Spanish 75.

Another great is the Champagne Cocktail. Sipped by swells in classics of the silver screen, the secret to this drink is all in the sugar cube. Drip a few drops of spiced Angostura bitters on to the cube, let it dry, and the rest is magic. I’ve been rapidly expanding my bitters collection lately, and although the classic Angostura still works best, I tried this out with Fee Brothers’ rhubarb bitters. It made for a lovely variation.

Is this still too fussy? Consider the humble brunch Mimosa: just add bubbles to OJ, or for a Bellini, peach nectar. Even one splash of something extra (Grenadine? Campari? Spiced rum?) and you have something different and impressive.

Now comes the hard part: deciding what occasion to celebrate.

French 75

2 ounces Cognac (gin may be substituted, if preferred)

1 teaspoon superfine sugar

1/2 ounce lemon juice

5 ounces brut Champagne

In a cocktail shaker, combine Cognac, sugar, lemon juice and ice, and shake well. Strain into a chilled Collins glass half filled with ice. Top off with Champagne.

Champagne Cocktail

3 drops Angostura Bitters

1 sugar cube

1 ounce Cognac

4 ounces brut Champagne

Drop bitters on to a sugar cube and let dry. Place sugar cube in a Champagne flute. Add Cognac, and fill with Champagne.

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