Champagne, especially high-quality champagne, is a delicious beverage that requires no adulteration. And yet, it mixes so well with spirits, liqueurs, bitters and citrus that bartenders can’t help but use the sparkling wine in cocktails. Fortunately for the drinking public, that effort has resulted in countless champagne drinks, from the French 75 to the Kir Royale. But perhaps none is more elegant or complementary to its chief ingredient than the aptly named Champagne Cocktail.
This simple classic originally appeared in “The Bartender’s Guide,” an 1862 tome by Jerry Thomas. Chock full of timeless recipes, the book has become an essential resource to bartenders, both professional and amateur. Some of the drinks within are difficult to make with today’s ingredients, but not the Champagne Cocktail. Chances are high that you have everything you need to mix one: sparkling wine, Angostura bitters, sugar and a lemon twist.
You’ll take those straightforward ingredients and follow the directions of San Francisco barman Jacques Bezuidenhout, who provides this recipe.
Rather than shaking or stirring your way to a finished product, you will simply build the cocktail in your champagne flute. A bitters-soaked sugar cube is dropped into the chilled, effervescent wine, quickly lending its color to the drink along with a thin, aggressive line of bubbles racing from the bottom to the surface.
The delicious, low-ABV cocktail seems fit to improve any occasion. Drink one as an aperitif before dinner, or have one as a nightcap. Fill everyone’s outstretched hand with a flute on New Year’s Eve or at other celebratory events. You can’t go wrong when champagne is on the menu.
Note that if you don’t have any sugar cubes (say, if you’re not a 20th century tea drinker or responsible for giving treats to horses), you can use simple syrup as your sweetener. The drink will taste the same, but you’ll miss out on the fizzy effect. So, for the best results, procure some cubes. Asking for sugar is still a great way to meet neighbors—especially when you invite them over for a drink.
Click Play to See This Champagne Cocktail Come Together
- 1 sugar cube
- 2 to 4 dashes Angostura bitters
- Champagne (or other sparkling wine), to top
- Garnish: lemon twist
Place a sugar cube on a bar spoon and douse with the bitters.
Drop the cube into a chilled champagne flute or similar glass.
Fill the glass with champagne or other sparkling wine.
Garnish with a lemon twist.