Bubble & Sweet

Champagne cocktails have class, sass, and gas.

Accounting for preparation degree of difficulty per enjoyment factor, champagne cocktails make the best festive drinks, dressing up your party as well as that budget bubbly you've bought. If you have the means to use actual champagne in your cocktails, more power to you. But for the rest of us, I'd recommend Italian prosecco, Spanish cava, or French crémant as the sparkling canvases to decorate. These sparklers tend to be a teeny bit off-dry, and most cost less than $15. (And no, do not worry about needing to call them "sparkling wine cocktails." The Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée police will not come after you if you use the "C" word.) Montelliana Prosecco ($12) lives in my crisper year-round. But if you're having a party and need quantity, go for Segura Viudas Cava ($7), high quality enough that you won't rue using it the next morning. Segura also sells mini bottles you can order from your local wine shop; mix right in the bottle and serve with a straw. To make a proper champagne cocktail, add a sugar cube soaked in Angostura bitters to a glass of sparkling wine, whose bubbles will help release the bitters' herbaceous aroma. For an aromatic, concentrated take on this classic, you could mash the sugar cube with lemon or ginger juice. A kir royale is a glass of bubbles with a thimble of crème de cassis. (Pomegranate juice, the reigning Miss Mixer U.S.A., is another great way to achieve a similar effect without making a pit stop at the liquor store.) Sparkling and fruity brunch favorites like the bellini and mimosa add peach and orange juice, respectively—the proportions are your business. I'm skeptical about orange juice and booze; to me, the combination always tastes like it's turned. I prefer Looza brand pear or mango juice. When you're adding alcohol to sparkling, model your champagne cocktail after classic after-dinner drinks and mix in liqueurs. Just use a spirit that contributes its own flavor and richness, which means passing on the vodka. In New Orleans, many bartenders swirl a little Drambuie—an herbed whisky liqueur—in the flute before pouring in the sparkling wine; it comes off much like adding bitters and sugar. You could do the same with Cointreau or Grand Marnier, which both add an exotic orange aroma. For a sweet-tart treat, I float a small shot of limoncello over bubbles. The thick sweetness of this Italian lemon liqueur crossfades with the tiny bubbles, creating a feedback loop of refreshment. I'm also a sucker for anything both high- and lowbrow, like a black velvet—stout topped with an equal measure of champagne. It's practically a dessert, like a rich chocolate topped with citrus cream. Bizarre, yes—but I swear the two drinks work together like Posh and Becks. If you want to road test a few sparkling concoctions before making them the centerpiece of your party, ask your local bartender for his or her favorite bubbly cocktail. But stop them if they reach for the Kahlua bottle. Seattle or no, coffee and champagne don't mix. info@seattleweekly.com Roger Downey is on a leave of absence.

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