Nothing says celebration quite like a glass of Champagne. With its vivacious bubbles, the French sparkler brings a bit of cheer everywhere it goes. But given the effort it takes to produce a high-quality bottle, Champagne prices can run high, meaning some may be hesitant to pour their sparkling investment into a glass full of other ingredients.
While it is true that the bubbles hold up more than fine on their own, Champagne cocktails can really take the wine to new heights. From citrus-forward classics like the French 75 to unsung absinthe concoctions, here are 11 of the best cocktails to make using Champagne.
The Champagne Cocktail
If you’re a purist, the appropriately named Champagne Cocktail is a wonderful build to branch out with. The recipe, which simply includes one sugar cube, a few dashes of Angostura bitters, and Champagne, was written by legendary bartender Jerry Thomas and first appeared in the “Bon Vivant’s Companion.” The low-ABV cocktail takes on a sweet and herbaceous edge, a delightful complement to the dry sparkling wine.
The French 75
It’s hard to think of one more elegant Champagne build than the French 75. The zippy cocktail was first mixed up at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris during World War I, and allegedly gets its name from the French 75mm field gun used by the French army while on the front lines. The refreshing cocktail, made with gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Champagne, is also easy to make. Just be sure to use real Champagne — while others on this list can be swapped with other kinds of bubbles, the French 75 demands its country’s native sparkling wine.
Often enjoyed in bottomless form, the Mimosa is one of the more ubiquitous Champagne cocktails around, delighting brunch-goers every Saturday and Sunday. While the orange juice and Champagne are easy to merge, it’s important to keep ratios in mind when building the bubbly beverage. For the best Mimosas, we recommend always using freshly squeezed juice, as store-bought juice’s extra sugar can distract from the flavors in the Champagne.
The Death in the Afternoon
While the Mimosa is certainly the most popular two-ingredient Champagne cocktail, if you’re looking for something on the boozier side, we’d prescribe the Death in the Afternoon — especially if you consider yourself a bookworm. Created by Ernest Hemingway, and named for his 1932 non-fiction novel of the same name, the Death in the Afternoon combines absinthe and Champagne. The bubbly cocktail washes the palate with flavors like anise and licorice before they are balanced with refreshing fruit from the Champagne.
The Kir Royale
The Kir Royale was created in an act of Nazi defiance. The cocktail was invented by Felix Kir, a champion of the French Résistance. The native Burgundian combined crème de cassis with Champagne after Burgundy’s wines were stolen by the Germans during World War II. The liqueur was allegedly chosen to recreate the color of the region’s beloved red wines. The fruity cocktail is most often served as an apéritif and received a huge boost in popularity last year after a cameo on Netflix series “Emily in Paris.”
The Old Cuban
The Old Cuban is essentially the Mojito and French 75’s love child. Created by iconic NYC bartender Audrey Saunders, the cocktail combines refreshing mint, rum, lime juice, and simple syrup and gets an herbaceous bump from Angostura bitters. Once topped with Champagne, the cocktail bridges the Caribbean and France, resulting in a bright and bubbly concoction that will bring a bit of sunshine to your glass.
The First Flight
Created by mixologist Daniel Yang, the First Flight is a variation of the French 75 and swaps out the classic’s standard gin base for America’s native spirit, bourbon. In a further departure from the original, the cocktail employs house-made orgeat in place of simple syrup, which brings a more robust, nutty edge to the build. As bourbon and orgeat can tend to make things a bit sweet, the concoction is balanced with the addition of Angostura bitters, which brings further complexity to the glass. Topped with Champagne, the First Flight remains just as refreshing, albeit slightly more American, than its classic French counterpart.
The Sparkling Pisco Cobbler
While pisco cocktails aren’t the most commonly riffed, there are many delicious drinks to make with Peru’s native spirit, including the Sparkling Pisco Cobbler. The cocktail serves as a souped-up variation of the Sherry Cobbler, and combines pisco with triple sec, lemon juice, and Champagne along with orange and Angostura bitters. The resulting cocktail is floral and herbaceous, and remains extremely refreshing thanks to the lemon juice and dry Champagne.
The Sparkling Cosmo
Created by iconic bartender Toby Ceccini and further popularized by Carrie Bradshaw, the Cosmopolitan is a classic in its own right. But if you’re feeling fancy, why not add a few bubbles? The Sparkling Cosmo, made with all the classic’s ingredients plus some brut, is wonderfully fresh and just as easy to sling back as the original.
The Air Mail
Another Champagne cocktail, another French 75 variation. Created sometime in the 1930s, the Air Mail’s recipe was first recorded in a Bacardí promotional pamphlet. The build, which can be considered a tropical French 75, combines gold rum, lime juice, honey syrup, and Champagne for a luscious concoction bursting with sugar cane and citrus. While some recipes call for the cocktail to be served in a highball, we recommend sending your Air Mail out in a Champagne flute to stay true to its French roots.
The Jack Rose Royale
Created by acclaimed NYC-based mixologist Kenta Goto — the mind behind Bar Goto and Bar Goto Niban — the Jack Rose Royale, as the name suggests, marries the Jack Rose to the Kir Royale. Sticking true to the former’s build, the Jack Rose Royale pairs Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy and juicy grenadine before lemon juice is added to brighten things up a bit.