As with most cocktails, the better the quality of the spirit, the more you’ll enjoy your drink. But when the spirit in question is champagne – that sparkling, crisp liquid gold that’s already the best that money can buy – how do you make it even more special?
Simple, you bring in the best man for the job.
Douglas Ankrah, drinks and beverage specialist (oh, he’s much more than a bartender) has earned his stripes by making cocktails cooler with London’s hip set. Ankrah, who has visited India to shake up a storm at our bars, had his work cut out for him.
Champagne-based drinks aren’t new. They’ve been around for almost as long as champagne’s been around – 300 years. Champagne punch recipes calling for brandy and orange liqueurs have shown up in old cookbooks dating to the 1860s.
|• Chill your sparkling wines. |
• Don’t use cheap sparkling for cocktails. Good ingredients make a good drink. Don’t use the highest end sparkling either. Drink your Dom straight.
• As most sparkling wine drinks are on the sweet side, use a dry sparkling [aka Brut] for cocktails.
• Chill the glass ahead of time. Sparkling wine tastes best when served well chilled.
• Pour small amounts of sparkling in at a time to prevent the flute from foaming over.
Proper champagne cocktails, however, probably bubbled into our lives in 1861, when England went into mourning for Prince Albert and a London bartender put a black spin on the drink. He blended it with Guinness stout to make a Black Velvet, creating one of the first champagne-based mixes.
The first recipe for a champagne cocktail, as it were, dates to Jerry Thomas’ The Bar-Tenders Guide from 1862. Thomas recommended we fill a tumbler a third-full of broken ice. Pour in champagne, half a teaspoon sugar, two dashes of bitters, a piece of lemon peel. Shake. Serve.
Shake. As in, cause a minor explosion by agitating a carbonated drink! Later recipes amended the method by omitting the shaking bit – but no one knows for sure how many accidents those early cocktails might have caused.
Regardless, it seems people really liked the taste of the sweet-sharp champagne drink. Mark Twain mentioned it in his 1969 work Innocents Abroad. And in 1889, the bubbling cocktail finally had its shining moment when a man named John Dougherty added brandy to a champagne cocktail and won the New York cocktail competition. Today, almost anything can go into a great-tasting champagne cocktail.
The secret to crafting a great drink is in the order of assembly. Most recipes get you to add the spirit slowly and only as the final step (it’s called charging). Don’t try to be 007. Don’t shake. Don’t stir. As with most of life’s finest luxuries, take your time and enjoy the moment – that’s the spirit.
• 140 ml of freshly pressed Seville orange juice
• 50ml of Good Agaves Tequila
• 30ml of Mandarine Napoleon or Cointreau
• Half a bottle of Cava sparkling wine
• 25ml of Hendricks gin
• 15 ml elderflower cordial or St Germain elderflower liqueur
• 2-3 seeds of cardamom seeds
• 15ml freshly pressed juices of lime
From HT Brunch, December 22
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