Popping a cork is a long-running tradition for ringing in a new year. For many, nothing says “celebration” like Champagne and other sparkling wines.
But these days, these bubble-licious beverages are just as likely to end up in a cocktail. And with good reason, as they boast more flavor, less acidity and, on this night at least, can potentially alleviate the next morning’s “large noggin” feeling, which never has made sense as a way to usher in a new year.
All around town, sparkling cocktails are popping up. And while Champagne is still king, less expensive options from Spain, Italy and the U.S. now abound. So do the liqueurs (Domain Canton, Lillet Blanc) and non-boozy beverages (pomegranate juice, tea) that punch up these concoctions. So they’re easier to make at home and to find at bars and restaurants.
Here are some sparkling options, some good-bang-for-the-buck bottles and where to find these cocktails in the Twin Towns.
And find out how to make them. For starters, please use decent bubbly, not plonk. You’re “cooking,” and you wouldn’t include limp herbs or browned fruit in that process, would you? Also, the cheap stuff might be the reason some of you have come to associate the words “Champagne” and “headache.”
These venues offer up tasty spritzy beverages:
Relevé (601 1st Av. N., Mpls., 612-677-1100): Ensconced in the lounge of downtown Minneapolis’ Lowes Hotel, this bar focuses primarily on bubbles and cocktails made with them.
Barbette (1600 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-827-5710): A longtime champion of sparkling cocktails, including martini-esque drinks, this Uptown hot spot has upped its game in the genre. Some of Kim Bartmann’s other eateries — Pat’s Tap, Third Bird and Tiny Diner — also have bubble-licious connections.
Meritage (410 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-222-5670): Oysters and Champagne cocktails? Yes, please! The downtown St. Paul mainstay’s gorgeous bar area is a swell setting for lively sparkling aperitifs.
St. Genevieve (5003 Bryant Av. S., Mpls., 612-353-4843). Recently opened and ready to pour.
Types of sparklers
• Wines labeled “Champagne” are by law made only in that region of France (with a few “grandfathered” domestic exceptions like Korbel). They tend to be complex, intense and rich, often with yeasty notes.
• In the rest of France, sparkling wines usually are labeled “Cremant.” They tend to be gentler and often creamier than Champagnes.
• Prosecco, from Italy, is almost invariably lighter, frothier and fruitier than Champagne, often more floral on the nose and tropical on the palate.
• Cava, from Spain, generally splits the difference between Champagne and prosecco in terms of dryness and ripeness, with firm texture, earthy notes and citrus/green-apple aromas and flavors.
• Sparkling moscato, “sekt” from several European countries and, of course, domestic sparkling wines are other contenders. Then there’s lambrusco, a slightly carbonated red wine, that’s gaining in popularity.
Some choice “mixers” (all $20 and under, unless noted):
Domestic: Gruet Blanc de Noirs, Mumm Napa Cuvee M.
French: Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé, Poulet & Fils Clairette de Die Tradition, Simonnet-Febvre Cremant de Bourgogne.
Prosecco: Adami Bosco di Gica, Cavicchioli 1928 DOC, Mionetto Valdobbiadene Brut, Riondo Spago Nero, Vias Acinum.
Cava: Avinyo, Mont Marcal Brut Reserva and Brut Rosé, Pere Mata, Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad ($25 and worth it).
Note: The classic drink, from David Venable of QVC, who reminds the home bartender not to put the sparkling wine in the cocktail shaker! (You don’t want to shake out the bubbles.)
• 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
• 1 tbsp. powdered sugar
• Splash of gin
• Splash of sparkling wine
• Lemon peel, for garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and the lemon juice, powdered sugar and gin. Shake well. Pour mixture into a low ice-filled glass and add the splash of sparkling wine. Garnish with the lemon peel.
Orange-Ginger Pomegranate Punch
Note: From Better Homes & Gardens.
• 1/2 c. water
• 1/2 c. sugar
• 5 thin slices peeled fresh ginger
• 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish
• 2 c. pomegranate juice
• 1 c. orange liqueur (Cointreau, Grand Marnier, etc.)
• 1 750-ml bottle prosecco
• Orange slices
In a small saucepan combine 1/2 cup water, sugar, ginger and 2 rosemary sprigs. Cook and stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 30 minutes. Strain.
In a punch bowl, combine syrup, pomegranate juice and orange liqueur. Add prosecco. If possible, let stand 30 minutes. Serve over ice with fresh rosemary sprigs and orange slices.
Classic Champagne Cocktail
Note: From Cafe Barbette, in Minneapolis.
• 1 sugar cube
• Angostura bitters
• Sparkling wine
• Lemon twist
Soak a sugar cube with a few drops of Angostura bitters. Drop the cube into a Champagne flute, and slowly top the glass with sparkling wine and a lemon twist.
Note: From epicurious.com.
• 6 oz. (3/4 c.) sparkling wine
• 1/2 oz.(1 tbsp.) crème de cassis
• Lemon twist
Pour the sparkling wine and cassis into a Champagne flute. Stir. Garnish with lemon twist.
Note: From Roux restaurant in Portland, Oregon. From Food & Wine magazine.
• 1 sugar cube
• 1/4 oz. (1 1/2 tsp.) grenadine
• 1 oz. (1/8 c.) chilled Lillet Blanc
• 3 oz. (3/8 c.) chilled sparkling wine
• 1 orange twist
Place sugar cube in chilled flute and saturate with grenadine. Add Lillet and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with orange twist.
Strawberry Champagne Cocktail
Serves 1 (can be multiplied easily).
Note: From food.com.
• 1/2 c. fresh strawberries
• 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1/4 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1 tsp. sugar
• Sparkling wine to taste
Wash and hull the strawberries. Put all the strawberries, except one, in a blender. Add vanilla, lemon juice and sugar, and purée. Pour into a Champagne flute halfway. Top with sparkling wine, and stir gently. Slide the remaining strawberry onto edge of the glass.
Note: From all recipes.com.
• 1 (12-oz.) can frozen cranberry juice concentrate
• 1 (12-oz.) can frozen pink lemonade concentrate
• 1 (6-oz.) can frozen limeade concentrate
• 1 (750-milliliter) bottle white wine (dry or sweet), chilled
• 1 liter carbonated water, chilled
• 2 (750-ml) bottles sparkling wine, chilled
• 1 lemon, sliced, for garnish
• 1/2 c. fresh mint, garnish
In large punch bowl, combine the cranberry juice concentrate, pink lemonade concentrate, limeade concentrate, white wine, club soda and sparkling wine. Stir until blended. Garnish with lemon slices and mint leaves.
Note: From Bon Appetit.
• 1 1/2 oz. (3 tbsp.) Aperol
• 2 oz. (1/4 c.) sparkling wine
• 2 oz. (1/4 c.) sparkling water
• 1 lemon twist
• 1 olive
Combine Aperol, sparkling wine and sparkling water in a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with a lemon twist and a cocktail olive (on the side, if your prefer).
Note: Domaine de Canton is a ginger-flavored liqueur. Use 1 part liqueur to 3 parts sparkling wine.
• 2 oz. Domaine de Canton
• 6 oz. sparkling wine
• Small lemon wedge or lemon bitters
Add liqueur and sparkling wine to a Champagne flute. Squeeze the juice of a lemon wedge or add a dash of lemon bitters.
Green Tea Champagne
Note: From Rachael Ray.
• 2 tbsp. green tea leaves
• 1 (750 ml) bottle brut sparkling wine, chilled
• Fresh mint leaves, for garnish, optional
Steep the tea leaves in 2 cups cold water for 6 hours. Strain, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
To serve, fill champagne glasses halfway with the green tea and top off with the sparkling wine and garnish with mint leaves.
Bill Ward writes at decant-this.com. Follow him on Twitter: @billward4.