The basic Champagne Cocktail is a simple mixture of Champagne and a sugar cube soaked in Angostura bitters.
Dating back to the Civil War era, when it appeared in Jerry Thomas’s 1887 Bartender’s Guide, it seemed to reach its peak in popularity by 1934 when Esquire magazine selected it as one of the top 10 cocktails. This hardly comes as a surprise since that was barely a year after the end of prohibition, and congenial topers had no doubt experimented with ways of making inferior bubbly palatable.
The integral sugar cube aside, the Champagne Cocktail and its progeny have taken some serious lumps over time. Although some detractors would tell you to look for a recipe under the word “travesty” in the dictionary, it has unflagging adherents who deem it the perfect sophisticated cocktail to launch a social occasion. The inherent beauty of the Champagne Cocktail goes beyond its suave appearance and silken palate: it can also be 4 to 20 times cheaper than Champagne.
Bear in mind that just as it would be a sacrilege to contaminate a Manhattan with rotgut whiskey, you would have the Widow Clicquot spinning cartwheels in her tomb if you added anything to a fine Champagne but a smile. Any amiable dry sparkling wine would fit the bill here, but naturally avoid anything that tastes as if it could cure hacking cough and a sore throat.
Since a bottle of bubbly is universally recognized as the drink to celebrate happy events, the Champagne Cocktail would serve as a delightful alternative at weddings, graduations or celebrating what you will do with the leftover pails of cash from your last tax rebate check.
As much as you may want to commemorate the physique of Marie-Antoinette, whose breast was used a model for the traditional Champagne goblet, serve a Champagne Cocktail in a fluted glass to preserve the effervescence.
Food Affinities: Joyous occasions deserve festive food, and the Champagne Cocktail. Caviar, paté, or even crostini with tapenade for those on a budget will all highlight this classic drink.