Sparkling Cocktails

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Story by Dave Eckert    |    @eatsanddrinkswithdave
Intro photo courtesy of Waldo Thai  |   Photo by Alyssa Broadus

We’ve nearly made it. 2020 is almost over. As this unforgettable (the nicest term I could come up with) year drags to a close, how about we send it out with a toast to help us celebrate the holidays and bring the year to an end on a more hopeful note. There is nothing in the world better equipped to do that than sparkling wine. Whether it’s Champagne, the one and only bubbly from Champagne, France, or a myriad of other sparkers from around the world, nothing says celebration like bubbles. And when you combine those wines with other potent potables, you’ve got a bevy of delicious cocktails and some great ideas for spicing up your holiday meals and celebrations.

Photo courtesy of Boozy Botanical

I reached out to mixologist friends across the metro for their ideas on bubbly cocktails, and wow, did I get some great ones. Cheryl Bisbee, founder of Boozy Botanicals simple syrups is both a longtime friend and a huge fan of sparkling wine cocktails. “Sparkling wine brings an element of fun and festivity to your glass. It also adds complexity and more fragrance to your drink as those bubbles hit your nose as you take a sip,” Bisbee weighed in.

Bisbee says to use drier versions of sparkling wines as sweeter and flavored sparklers will throw off the drink’s balance. “I typically build the underlying cocktail with the lighter, clear spirits – gin, vodka or silver tequila. My favorite “go to” Champagne cocktail has to be a French 75 – gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, topped with Champagne. An Aperol Spritz is a classic lighter abv cocktail featuring Aperol, prosecco, and club soda. Pour two to four ounces of sparkling wine on top of the underlying cocktail,” Bisbee stated.

Jake Barnett is the Co-Founder of Old Fashioned Beverage & Hospitality, and another unabashed fan of using sparkling wine in cocktails. “I will use sparkling wine in a cocktail any chance I get. Rarely, if ever, do I find that I won’t enjoy a drink more if you add bubbles to it!” Barnett exclaimed. “I tend to use something like Segura Viudas’ Brut (a Spanish Cava) when I’m looking for a sparkling wine to enhance a cocktail. It’s nice and acidic with some citrus character, but not so much that it will take away from the other flavors you’re using,” Barnett said. His favorite bubbly cocktail is one he calls the Tangerine Dream, his riff on a French 75 with tangerine juice used in place of the lemon. Again, the recipe is waiting for you online!

Photo courtesy of J. Rieger & Company

Ryan Maybee, mixologist extraordinaire and Vice President of Sales & Hospitality at J. Rieger & Company, is another big fan of crafting cocktails with sparkling wine. “I’m a huge fan and have been for a very long time,” Maybee told me. Maybee’s love for bubbly cocktails goes all the way back to the original Champagne Cocktail, which he recalled was named Cocktail of the Year by Esquire Magazine back in the mid 1930’s. “They’re versatile. They’re delicious. And, when you add sparkling wine to a drink, you’ve automatically raised the stakes and make the cocktail celebratory,” Maybee said.

They’ve added a new sparkling cocktail beauty at J. Rieger. It’s called the “Brand New Boom,” which features Rieger’s Gin, Passionfruit, Cacao, Sparkling Wine, and Creole Bitters. “This cocktail is quite effervescent with a subtle roundness from both balanced tangy passion fruit and mellow cacao. The creole bitters add a nice layer of bitterness and floral aroma that really helps lift the botanical notes from the gin as well,” Beverage Director Andrew Olson shared. “The cocktail was designed as a celebration of that major expansion and growth in KC’s history.”

Photo courtesy of Waldo Thai  |   Photo by Alyssa Broadus

Darrell Loo has been one of my “go to” mixologists for years, back to his days of creating cocktail magic at Julep in Westport. These days, Loo has found a home at the fantastic restaurant Waldo Thai. Loo reworks his cocktail list there seasonally. He’s put a new sparkling wine themed drink on the list for fall called the Very Chuggable, which combines sake, sparkling wine, cucumber, St. Germain, longan, goji berry, and grape. It is indeed very chuggable, though I did my best to sip. That creation goes alongside the Waldo Thai classic, the Thai 69, another riff on the classic French 75. Both drinks continue Loo’s love affair with sparkling wine-based cocktails. “Sparkling wine really elevates a cocktail. There’s something celebratory about the bubbles that I really like,” Loo shared.

I agree. Check out the recipes for some sparkling drinks. Cheers!

KC Sparkling Tequila Gimlet (serves 4 people)

  • 1/2 cup fresh mint (shredded in food processor)
  • 4 ounce of simple syrup
  • 4 oz .fresh lime juice
  • 6 oz. Mean Mule blanco (silver) tequila
  • 8 oz. Jeio Prosecco, chilled

Tangerine Dream

  • 1.5 oz gin
  • .75 oz simple syrup
  • .75 oz acidulated tangerine juice*
  • 1.5 oz sparkling wine
  • Build gin, simple, and juice in a shaker tin with ice.  Shake until tin is well-frosted.  Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe, and top with sparkling wine.
  • Garnish with an orange or tangerine quarter-wheel.
  • Acidulated tangerine juice: Add 3 tsp of citric acid (buy it in the canning aisle of your favorite grocery store) to 1 cup of fresh-squeezed or store-bought tangerine juice.

Boozy Botanicals Basic Sparkling Wine Cocktail

  • 1 1/2 oz clear spirit (gin, vodka, tequila)
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup (any of the Boozy Botanicals are great here!)
  • 1/2 oz fresh squeezed lime or lemon juice.

Shake those ingredients up with ice, strain into your glass and top with sparkling wine. Different flavored bitters would be fun to play with in this basic recipe too – a couple dashes of bitters will add more flavor and depth to your sparkling cocktail

Aperol Spritz

  • 3 oz prosecco
  • 2 oz Aperol
  • 1 oz club soda
  • Orange peel garnish

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