The sun is shining, birds are chirping, we are celebrating our Mothers in May, soon our Fathers and everyone in between! In Calgary, we celebrate our time outdoors – the bright sun, those longer days, and the return of our patio weather! Because our winters are so long, we cannot wait to “bust out“ of our winter coats, and bask in the nice weather when it returns, be it at brunch, lunch, happy hour or dinner. We cannot wait to find a sunny patio, sit with friends and/or family and find a cause to celebrate.
What better way to celebrate this season than with a glass of bubbles? Some people underestimate the power bubbles have to lift your spirits, invigorate your day, refresh your palate, and celebrate a moment. There is just something satisfying about the way a flute or even a coupe sits in your hand perfectly.
While champagne is the benchmark in sparkling wine, perhaps not all of us have the budget to satisfy our “champagne tastes”… but for those of us who still want to enjoy that sparkle, there are a variety of sparkling wines available to us in the province such as Cava (Spain), Prosecco and Franciacorta (Italy), and some lovely Blanc de Blancs are available from California. These wines can be enjoyed on their own or used to make some incredibly festive and satisfying cocktails.
Champagne cocktail recipes can be found dating back to the late 1800s. The great debate between the purists and the idealist, also dates back over time. The debate asks the question; why on earth would you want to put anything into a beautiful glass of champagne? Well, for the purist the solution is simple, use a sparkling wine in any of these cocktails, and for the idealist, well…anything goes.
Most of us have heard of “The Mimosa” (invented about 1925), a classic brunching cocktail of sparkling wine and orange juice. In the film Casablanca, one of the most romantic movies of all time, many of the characters notoriously sip on a variety of classics like the “Champagne cocktail” and the “French 75”. Meanwhile in Italy, the first commercial advertising the recipe of the “Aperol spritz” as a refreshing aperitif was released in the early 1950’s.
In our present day cocktail culture we have access to locally flavoured bitters as well as easily infused simple syrup recipes that can “spice up” these classic recipes. A freshly squeezed blood orange juice Mimosa, saffron mango bitters in your champagne cocktail, or fresh raspberry simple syrup in your French 75 are all possible! So many options – and not enough sunny days in our spring! So the next time you hear the birds chirping, and feel the heat of the sun upon your face, take a moment to celebrate, pop that cork! Spritz up your spring and enjoy a sparkling wine cocktail on the nearest patio, even if it’s your own!
Champagne Cocktail (classic)
1 sugar cube
2 dashes of angostura bitters
1/3 oz cognac
4 oz chilled sparkling white wine
Garnish with a lemon twist
Place one sugar cube in the bottom of a flute, add the bitters, then cognac, and finish with sparkling white wine, and finally the lemon zest.
Aperol Spritz (refreshing)
1 oz Aperol
4 oz Prosecco
Splash of soda
Garnish with a slice of orange
Fill chilled champagne flute with ice and add prosecco, add the Aperol. Top with a splash of soda and finish with a slice of orange.
French 75 (sipper)
Recipes dating back to World War 1, as the combination of these ingredients was said to have such a “kick” it could be compared to the French 75 mm field gun.
½ oz of simple syrup
½ oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 oz dry sparkling white wine
Garnish with a lemon twist
Classic simple syrup recipe:
(Depending on the thickness or richness you are trying to achieve, try adding a pinch of salt too; this results in texture and more depth)
Combine 2 parts water to 1 part sugar
combine 1 part water to 1 part sugar
Bring to a boil to allow sugar to dissolve. To eitherof these recipes you can add or muddle fresh fruit, muddled herbs, or spices, to achieve colour and flavour intensity.