Search & Distill: You Could Use More Sparkling Wine in Your Cocktails

For starters, turn to the French 75.

A great cocktail has to have balance, and bartenders usually achieve that by adding sour, acidic, or dry flavors like citrus or bitters. But the carbonation and generally dry profile of a dry sparkling wine acts like an instant toner for a drink; it amplifies the aroma and flavor of what's already there. Two weeks ago at the Sorrento's inaugural Drinking Lessons night at the Hunt Club, former Seattleite and now national cocktail consultant Ryan Magarian dropped a ton of knowledge on the art of mixing drinks, including some great tricks for achieving balanced flavor. "A few ounces of sparkling wine, because it's very dry, is one of the best ways to bring a drink back from being too sweet or fruity or heavy," he said. "It can also help bring all of the ingredients together."Think of it this way: Sparkling wine goes into a drink just as you would add an ingredient to a salad dressing. When a dressing is too flat, you add more citrus or vinegar, something to lift it. A cocktail is no different.The cocktail that best illustrates what a few bubbles can accomplish is the French 75. With ice, shake two ounces of gin, a half-ounce of fresh lemon juice, and a teaspoon of sugar. (You can also use simple syrup to give the drink a richer mouthfeel.) Strain this mixture into a cocktail glass, top it with dry sparkling wine, and garnish with a lemon twist. Basically a gin lemon drop at heart, a French 75 benefits from bubbly because it makes the juniper and citrus oils jump out of the glass and straight up your nose. Drinks with bubbly should always have a fresh, generous twist or disc of citrus for this reason, and you can trade out the gin for brandy or cognac to get a lighter variation on a sour.One of the more stunning sparkling cocktails I've tried in the past few months comes from Licorous (982 12th Ave.). The bar's Portuguese Cooler uses dry white port as a base, with cucumber, fresh orange juice, and a pungent orange salt; when highlighted with a little prosecco, the cooler is the very definition of vim and vigor. Additionally, the Night and Day cocktail at Zig Zag (down the stairs at 1501 Western Ave.)—made with cognac, Grand Marnier, Campari, and sparkling wine—shows how bubbles can meld disparate flavors. The cognac and Grand Marnier marry into a bit of high-octane orange-and-caramel magic, while the Campari heightens a fruity element that you might not notice

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