Sparkling wine cocktails are a delicious institution. It takes only a few splashes of champagne, prosecco, cava or some other sparkling wine to add elegance and complexity to a drink. Likewise, adding something as simple as some bitters and a sugar cube can transform a glass of sparkling wine into a stunning nightcap, as with the Champagne Cocktail.
One liqueur that is often mixed with sparkling wines is crème de violette. Known mainly for its use in the classic Aviation, the liqueur is made with macerated violets, giving it a heavily floral aroma and a lush, sapphire hue. Unfortunately, in some drinks, even the Aviation, it can turn more of an off-gray blue than a vibrant violet.
Patricia Grimm, the beverage director at Adele’s in Nashville, wanted to create a light, bright brunch cocktail that highlighted the elegant floral flavors of crème de violette without the dull tinge it can lend to drinks. “When added to a clear spirit, it typically reads gray, which belies its vibrant taste,” she says. However, its notes pair beautifully with both sparkling wine and with gin. The answer, then, lay in swapping out the traditional sparkling white wine for something darker: lambrusco, the sparkling red wine from Italy. “The earthiness of lambrusco and gin botanicals work great with the violet floral notes,” Grimm says.
In the La Violetta, Grimm uses Boodles London dry gin. Well-regarded for its good quality and affordable price point, it’s a natural choice for use in a busy bar. However, don’t feel constrained by it. You can use whatever dry gin you have on hand, or switch it up for something even more floral, like Hendrick’s or Tanqueray 10.
For the essential ingredient of crème de violette, Grimm opts for Rothman & Winter crème de violette. One of the most popular brands of the liqueur, it was the first to reintroduce crème de violette to the American market when Haus Alpenz began importing it in 2007. Today, there are a few other options, including ones from Drillaud, Giffard and Bitter Truth.
Finally, the drink gets a bit of lemon juice, which adds some nice acidity to balance everything out, making for a bright, floral and visually intriguing sparkling drink.
- 1 ounce Boodles London dry gin
- 1/2 ounce Rothman & Winter crème de violette
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 ounce lambrusco
- Garnish: dehydrated lemon wheel or lemon twist
Add the gin, creme de violette and lemon juice into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Double-strain into a coupe.
Top with the lambrusco and stir gently and briefly to combine.
Garnish with a dehydrated lemon wheel or fresh lemon twist.