GOOD TASTE

The season to sparkle


Published: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 4:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 4:13 p.m.

Mention sparking cocktails and most people think of mimosas, the time-honored staple of Sunday brunch. The holidays, however, are the perfect time to delve deeper into the festive array of sparkling drinks: No orange juice required.

Largely forgotten in favor of trendier mixed drinks, sparkling cocktails add an elegant effervescence to holiday gatherings with their wide nge of colors and flavors.

“It’s almost something this generation has forgotten - the sophistication of a complex drink,” says Bunky Mastin, co-owner of the Wine and Cheese Gallery.

One example is an Orange Twist, which combines orange vodka and triple sec with white wine and Champagne.

“It’s only a little more complicated to make than a screwdriver,” Mastin says.

For a sparkling cocktail appropriate for an evening gathering, Mastin suggests a twist on the classic Kir cocktail, which typically includes sparkling wine and crème de cassis, a black currant- flavored liqueur. The Kir-tini, however, adds Chardonnay to the mix and is served in a martini glass.

“It’s a strong drink, but it’s rich and filling. You won’t be tempted to overdo it with a drink like this,” he says.

Dan Rachal, head bartender at Liquid Ginger, suggests another sparkling twist on the martini — the Flirtini. In a Flirtini, fresh raspberries are muddled (that’s bartender-speak for crushed) and combined with raspberry vodka, triple sec and pineapple juice and topped with sparkling wine to create a bubbly, rosy-hued drink.

Robbie Sipes of Dorn’s Liquors and Fine Wines suggests letting guests create their own combinations by mixing sparkling wine and fruit juice.

“You can fill the flute halfway with Champagne and let your guests mix and match with different juices,” he says. He recommends Looza brand fruit nectars, available in most grocery stores, in tropical flavors from mango to passion fruit.

“Add any of those to your bubbly, and you’re set,” he says. “You get the cocktail feel without downing 40-proof vodka. It’s lighter and more festive.”

The same mix-it-yourself concept could be done with flavored liqueurs, Sipes says, with guests adding half a shot of Grand Marnier, Frangelico, or Midori to a flute of Champagne. In addition to French Champagne, experiment with sparkling wines such as Spanish cava, Italian Prosecco or Australian bubbly.

“If you’re adding a sweet liqueur, use a dry bubbly, like Pacific Echo,” says Snipes. “If you’re using a tart juice, try a sweet bubbly like Prosecco. Instead of a tart, crisp apple flavor, it leans toward a flowery, peachy flavor.”

The truly adventurous can find endless combinations with sparkling wine, including substituting Champagne for club soda or seltzer in their favorite drink recipes.

“I could see a mojito with bubbly instead of club soda,” Sipes says. “The variations are endless.”

One word of caution: Unless otherwise instructed in a drink recipe, serve your bubbly cold, in a tapered flute — not the wedding reception-style saucer cups.

“All those cups do — aside from making a nice pyramid for pouring — is let all of your bubbles out,” Sipes says. “The taper of a flute is made to preserve the bubbles.”

For dedicated mimosa aficionados, Sipes suggests branching out into different juices.

“A pineapple mimosa would be great. For the holidays, nothing is more festive than a Poinsettia, which is cranberry juice and sparkling wine. It’s bubbly, it’s beautiful, and the color is perfect for holiday entertaining. You could even rim the glass with a flavored sugar.”

Not to be forgotten is the classic Bellini, traditionally a blend of peach juice with Prosecco, the bubbly from Northern Italy. Mastin of the Wine and Cheese Gallery suggests a sophisticated twist on the original: an apple Bellini with cranberry juice and sour-apple liqueur.

For a large gathering, Sipes recommends spicing up the traditional wine punch with bubbly.

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