Of the thousands of mixed drinks, it’s quite possible none brings more division among serious imbibers than the classic Champagne Cocktail.
Like turning up the volume on a great song, this drink amplifies the world’s favorite celebratory tipple by adding a sugar cube soaked in bitters and garnished with a twist.
Adore or Abhor?
To some, adding anything to champagne is an abomination – something as culinarily criminal as putting cheese whiz on foie gras. David Embury, illustrating this viewpoint in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (1948) stated, “From every point of view, other than cost, this cocktail is a decidedly inferior drink, and no true champagne lover would ever commit the sacrilege of polluting a glass of vintage champagne by dunking plain sugar, much fewer bitters, into it. Conversely, others bless boosting their bubbly, like Charles Dickens who wrote in his 1887 novel, Dicken’s Dictionary of the Thames: “Champagne makes a capital cocktail … lemon, sugar, bitters, ice, as aforesaid, a glass of good.”
Starring Roles in Film & Literature
Also known as a chorus girl’s milk, the Champagne Cocktail remains a mystery as far as its creator; however, literary references emerged in the mid-19th century. Published in 1861, Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management mentions a ‘Regent’s Punch’ of champagne and brandy. The first published recipe appeared in Jerry Thomas’s 1862 Bartender’s Guide. Interestingly, having recoiled from shaking the ingredients due to the unsightly mess, he changed the preparation in his next edition.
In the film, the effervescent concoction played a glamorous supporting role in Casablanca when Victor Laszlo and Captain Renault saddle up to the bar at Rick’s Café and order a round. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr quaffed pink Champagne Cocktails during their shipboard romance in An Affair to Remember. And more recently, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby forever sealed their popularity depicting them as posh personified in liquid form.
Whichever camp you’re in, there’s no denying the Champagne Cocktail has stood the test of time thanks to its elegant simplicity and sweet-sour-bitter flavor trifecta. Perhaps it may just be worth compromising your purist party line to savor one this New Year’s Eve. Here’s to the New Year with an oldie but goodie!
Classic Champagne Cocktail
- Angostura Bitters
- Sugar Cube
- Lemon Twist
Preparation: Drop a sugar cube into a tall flute and soak it with Angostura bitters. Top with Brut Champagne. Garnish with a twist of lemon.