Making the most of cheap sparkler


Creative uses for so-so champagne

January 22, 2003|By Sara Engram | Sara Engram,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Unless you're the type of sipper who needs no excuse to open a bottle of sparkling wine, this is the time of year you look at that bottle left over from the holidays and ask the hard question: Is it really worth storing till next New Year's Eve?

If it's a fine bottle of champagne, the answer is easy: Sooner rather than later you'll find the right time to enjoy it. And if not, you can easily pass it along to a friend or dinner host.

But if it's not a fine specimen, and not good enough to pass along, now's the time to think of some creative uses for so-so sparkling wine. In other words, it's time for a champagne cocktail.

And why not? These long, cold winter evenings could use some cheering up.

Some mixologists say the right additions can make even the cheapest champagne a pleasant drink. That's probably true, although in general, better ingredients will make a better drink, and a decent champagne or sparkling wine will make a better cocktail base than one of cheaper quality. But our object here is to make use of less-than-spectacular bottles, so here goes.

The classic version of champagne cocktails is simple enough -- a flute of champagne with a sugar cube soaked in aromatic bitters, garnished with a citrus twist.

Christopher B. O'Hara, author of Hot Toddies: Mulled Wine, Buttered Rum, Spiced Cider, and Other Soul-Warming Winter Drinks (Clarkson Potter, 2002, $16.95), suggests adding creme de cassis, a black-currant liqueur, to make a Kir Royale, or perhaps a splash of Chambord, a French black-raspberry liqueur.

Either way, these liqueurs can make good use of a cheap champagne and, with a decent bottle of the sparkly, produce a darn good sip.

Champagne Cocktail

Serves 1

1/2 teaspoon sugar or 1 sugar cube

2 dashes of bitters

champagne to fill glass

orange or lemon twist for garnish

Add sugar and bitters to champagne glass, fill with champagne and garnish with orange or lemon twist.

-- "The Bartender's Black Book" by Stephen Kittredge Cunningham, sixth edition (The Bartender's Black Book Co. Inc., 2002, $12.95)

Kir Royale

Serves 8

8 ounces creme de cassis

two 750 milliliter bottles champagne, well-chilled

8 lemon twists

Pour 1 ounce creme de cassis into the bottom of a flute -- the taller the better. Top off with well-chilled champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.

-- "Hot Toddies" by Christopher B. O'Hara (Clarkson Potter, 2002, $16.95)

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