Chocolate covered strawberries are so ingrained with the idea of romance that it’s practically a cliche at this point. But there’s a reason for it, as the treat is a truly enticing indulgence. Throw in a glass of Champagne, and you have a perfectly lovely evening (or afternoon, or morning. No one will judge you). The Little Kiss, from Talmadge Lowe, beverage director at the Hospitality Collective, combines all of these elements into a single glass, with strawberry shrub and white crème de cacao topped with Champagne.
Shrubs are a family of drinking vinegars, often used in cocktails or mixed with sodas for zero-proof drinks. The strawberry shrub used in the Little Kiss brings some tartness to the drink as well as fruitiness, which helps to balance the sweetness of the white crème de cacao. If you find you have too much on hand for the cocktail, it can also be used in other drinks, including the Jack & Dabs, a bright and zesty drink with gin and sherry over crushed ice. Fresh strawberries are the preferred ingredient for making the shrub, but thawed frozen strawberries will give plenty of juice and sweetness. Furthermore, they’re far more available during the winter than ripe, fresh strawberries.
When it comes to crème de cacao, it’s important to use a white version, rather than a dark one. The white chocolate notes pair better with the strawberry shrub and sparkling wine, and the color keeps the drink from being muddy and cloudy.
For the sparkling wine element, Champagne is always a good choice, as its dryness and brioche notes adds to the richness and complexity of the drink. However, if you don’t want to drop the cash on a bottle of Champagne, another sparkling wine like a Crémant d’Alsace, prosecco, or cava can stand in. Just be sure to use a wine that has little to no residual sugar, as the drink can quickly become too sweet and cloying otherwise. A sparkling rosé, Champagne or otherwise, is a solid choice with the Little Kiss, amplifying the fruitiness of the strawberry and the brightness of the pink flush without raising the sweetness.
- 1/4 ounce strawberry shrub*
- 1/4 ounce white crème de cacao
- 3 ounces Champagne
- Garnish: strawberry
Add strawberry shrub and crème de cacao into a chilled Champagne flute.
Slowly pour in Champagne.
Garnish with woodland strawberry or tiny regular strawberry.
*Strawberry shrub: Add 10 ounces water, 4 ounces white vinegar, 12 ounces sugar and 10 strawberries (hulled and halved) into a saucepan and heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves completely. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Mash strawberries with muddler or fork. Strain and refrigerate (preferably overnight) before use.