Stir the sugar with the bitters in the bottom of the serving glass till the sugar is mostly dissolved. Pour in the Champagne slowly, pouring down the bar spoon handle if you wish. Scrape the remaining sugar up from the bottom of the glass a few times, but do not stir. Garnish with a long, thin lemon twist coiled and draped partially out of the glass.
|Prep Time||1 minute|
|Tags||1840-1880 (Cocktails Arrive), Aperitif, Classic, Elegant, New Orleans|
|Strength||1.1 standard drinks|
This is the modern Champagne Cocktail as prepared for most of the 20th Century (and the 21st...), though you will see a lot of recipes that use a sugar cube. The admonition to avoid stirring is present in the instructions for a reason.
This current method of constructing a Champagne Cocktail produces a drier drink because the sugar does not have a chance to fully dissolve. Soaking with the bitters will dissolve some of the sugar, and immersion in the Champagne with it's bubbles will get it further along. But when you finish the drink you will probably still have some undissolved sugar left in the glass. These "dregs" give the end of the cocktail a slightly sweeter finish. Using superfine sugar will yield fewer "dregs", almost none in fact. The more standard sugar cube almost always yields some tasty grit at the end of the drink.
You may need to adjust the amount of sugar depending on the sweetness of the wine. Any sparkler you use should ostensibly be "dry", but there is still variation of how dry present. A Brut Nature Cava (very dry) does just fine with the prescribed amount of sugar. A pink Cremant (such as Lucien Albrecht) needs a little less.
I also like to use other types of bitters in this drink. One fine choice is Bitter Truth Old Time Aromatic Bitters which seem to be a little more delicate than Angostura. This pairs nicely with a delicate Champagne.
As to what kind of wine to use, go for a good sparkler. A Champagne Cocktail is 90% or more wine so use a quality California sparkling wine or a non-vintage French Champagne. You don't need to go nuts with a vintage Champagne - you would just be covering it up with the bitters and sugar.
Substitute absinthe for the bitters and top with 1/2 oz of good Cognac and you have a Casino Cocktail. Or stick with the bitters and the Cognac float (David Wondrich advises trying Peychaud's bitters if you are adding brandy).
Champagne Cocktails started out in the mid-19th Century as iced drinks. This evolved over the years to using less ice and finally to the version we have today. If you want to use some ice go ahead and add a large cube or lump of ice before garnishing. This can extend the drink a little during warm weather.
Rating (Liquor & Drink)
Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne and Bitter Truth Old Time Aromatic Bitters. 4/3/2011