Sparkling Ways To Celebrate The Holidays
I have a confession to make: I don't like champagne. This is particularly problematic during the holidays, when parties are awash in champagne and other sparkling wines to toast the season.
Now, before you tell me to put a cork in it, let me explain. To my arguably overstimulated palate, it's boring. Maybe it's an effect of all those years of rich sauces, chili peppers, high-alcohol whiskeys and high-sugar liqueurs, but sparkling wines just don't do it for me.
Someone is bound to shout me down as a heathen (or a victim of cheap champers), but honestly, I'm happy to pass on the champagne.
That is, unless it's part of a cocktail. In fact, I'm obsessed with the French 75 cocktail, said to be named after the powerful 75mm howitzer cannon used during World War I. The standard is made with brandy or cognac (though gin is a popular substitute) mixed with lemon juice and sugar, then topped with brut champagne. Gussied up thus, I'm happy to swill champagne until the new year rings in.
One of the things I love about the French 75 is its versatility. How could anyone be bored when so many clever variations exist? With just a few tweaks of the basic cocktail building blocks ... the drink takes on seemingly endless new variations.
One of the things I love about the French 75 is its versatility. How could anyone be bored when so many clever variations exist? With just a few tweaks of the basic cocktail building blocks (sparkle, spirit, sour and sweet), the drink takes on seemingly endless new variations. I know of one bartender who attempted to make 75 French 75s, each one a fresh twist on the classic formula.
He's not the only one to see the drink's potential for riffing. Bars and restaurants all over the country have customized the French 75 to fit a cuisine, theme or flavor profile. For example, the popular Italian 75 swaps prosecco for champagne. At San Francisco's Tres Agaves, a Mexican 75 is made with blanco tequila, agave nectar and lime juice, and topped with sparkling wine -- perhaps the only tequila drink I've ever seen served in a champagne flute.
Other times, one or more of the building blocks are infused with seasonal or local flavors. One of my favorites is the Fig 75 served at New York's Gramercy Tavern (with fig-infused cognac, allspice dram, Lillet and sparkling wine). Meanwhile, at Midi, also in San Francisco, the Lavender French 75 is a popular option (gin, lavender-infused syrup, lemon juice and sparkling wine).
Of course, the French 75 isn't the only sparkling cocktail out there. In addition to the silver-screen classic champagne cocktail (a straightforward mix of bubbles poured over a sugar cube soaked with Angostura bitters), mixologists continue to bring us a wide range of sparkling cocktails. I often create my own drink recipes, using my favorite French 75 as a template for creating the drink. With the sparkle-spirit-sour-sweet building blocks in mind, a new cocktail comes easily. The hard part? Coming up with an appropriately bubbly toast.
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.