Tradition or experimentation? Classical dishes and drinks, or daring new ideas? Christmas is a season which celebrates the best of food and drink, but also poses that thorny question about whether to play it safe or venture into the unknown. Roast turkey with all the trimmings and a top-end Burgundy, or beef brisket and Vega Sicilia? The options at Christmas are almost endless, and no where is this more apparent than when planning your festive celebrations. Trying to keep everyone happy can be something of an ordeal.
Yet it would be hard to imagine any party guest refusing an expertly crafted, refreshing Champagne cocktail. Sophisticated, elegant and timeless, Champagne cocktails have few peers. Even the most trend-conscious bartender would readily concede that at the heart of all great cocktails is both a respect for tradition and an overriding focus on the quality of ingredients. A Champagne cocktail ticks all the boxes; it’s still relevant, despite changes in fashion, lending itself to a variety of interpretations and guises. Indeed, there is something decadent and irresistible about a Champagne cocktail – building a cocktail around the world’s finest sparkling wine is surely a guaranteed recipe for success. Tradition dictates that Champagne cocktails are the ultimate Christmas and New Year’s Eve party staple, and it’s certainly true that there is something quintessentially celebratory about a hedonistic mix of liquor, bitters and juice dressed up with bubbles.
However, this selection of bespoke Champagne cocktails and long-established classics are (we hope!) perfect for every occasion, and not just the holiday season. We’ve interviewed several bartenders to bring you the best of their signature creations – from white chocolate and strawberries to cherry blossom and chill, the following are a mix of the traditional and brave reinventions. Leading bartender Christophe Chilard – based at the Royal Automobile Club in London – offers this top tip when making these yourself: “Be sure to pour the Champagne very slowly when you top up the glass, as it reacts with the base and bubbles up more than you might imagine. Cheers!”
Source: Royal Automobile Club, London – Jelena Mariseva
Sweet raspberries, sharp lemon and a drop of Champagne make this elegant pink cocktail perfect for any occasion. A handful of ripe raspberries popped into a bottle of vodka and left for at least three days will give you the perfect result.
- 2cl home-infused raspberry vodka
- 2cl limoncello
- 1cl gomme syrup
- 4-5 raspberries
- 10cl Champagne
Muddle and shake the first four ingredients. Double strain into Margarita glass. Top up with Champagne and place one raspberry on the surface.
Source: Royal Automobile Club, London – Naveen Dias
A punchy reinvention of the classic Champagne cocktail. A mix of mild bourbon contrasts nicely with the dry spice of The King’s Ginger and bitters. Opposites attract indeed!
- 2.5cl Bourbon
- 2.5cl The King’s Ginger
- 1 sugar cube
- 4 drops of Angostura Bitters
- 0.5cl maple syrup
- 8cl Club Champagne
Soak the sugar cube with Angostura Bitters and drop it into the Champagne flute. Add the rest of the ingredients. Top up with Champagne and present with a long orange twist.
Source: Royal Automobile Club, London – Luna Gomes
When Luna Gomes first created this stunning pink cocktail, she couldn’t help feeling something was missing. An orchid caught her eye in one of the Club’s flower arrangements and she snuck it back to the bar to adorn her creation. It’s a criminally good Champagne cocktail.
- 2.5cl vodka
- 1.5cl lychee liqueur
- 1cl lime juice
- 1.5cl elderflower liqueur
- 1cl vanilla syrup
- 3 drops of rosemary bittersweet
- 2 lychees
- Rose Champagne
Muddle and shake ingredients. Double strain. Pour into Champagne flute. Top up with rose Champagne. Garnish with edible flowers. Enjoy.
Source: Voodoo Reyes, Geneva – Katalin Bene
Arguably Switzerland’s finest bartender, Katalin Bene’s signature Champagne cocktail is called “The Spirit of Love”. It’s a very refreshing, uplifting, floral drink with sorbet and bubbles and is her take on the French 75.
- 50ml Elderflower & Clary Sage infused gin
- 10ml Fresh Lemon juice
- 10ml Roasted fennel seed honey
- 1/4 spoon of finely ground Asparagus powder
Shake the ingredients with ice, fine strain into a large flute glass over a scoop of cucumber sorbet and top up with 50ml Brut Champagne.
After adding the champagne gently slide a spoon down to the bottom of the glass and then, gently, lift it up. The shaken ingredients will mix with the champagne and the sorbet will float up to the top of the drink. Sipping the drink through the sorbet is fun as you get different flavors and textures and some lovely bubbles too. Divine.
Old School Classics
They say the old ones are the best – this heady concoction is guaranteed to start any celebration on a high note.
- 3/4 parts Grand Marnier
- 4 parts Champagne
Simplicity itself: add the Grand Marnier to a champagne flute, then top with champagne. Garnish with an orange twirl.
Gin is very much the spirit du jour – “It’s the versatility that makes gin such a brilliant spirit,” enthuses bartender Christophe Chilard. “The possibilities are endless.” But gin’s versatility doesn’t begin and end inside gin and tonics. French 75 takes the best parts of Champagne and the inimitable white spirit to forge something far greater than the sum of its parts.
- 2 oz. gin
- 1 tsp superfine sugar
- 1/2 oz lemon juice
- 5 oz Champagne
Mix the gin, lemon juice, and sugar well with cracked ice in a chilled cocktail shaker. Strain the mixture into a martini glass half-full of cracked ice and top off with champagne. Formidable!
It doesn’t get any easier or more festive than mixing a Black Velvet on New Year’s Eve.
Half-fill a Collins glass with stout and top up slowly with Champagne. Stir gently to perfection.