This summer has graced us with new wines for our exploration. From esoteric whites from Campania, Italy, to dry rosés from Bandol, France, to funky-named wines from Austria. It’s time to mix things up with sparkling wine cocktails – a refreshing summer treat.
Among the most popular, or perhaps just my own favorite, is the French 77. This delightfully refreshing, aromatic and floral cocktail stems from the original French 75, which dates back to the first World War and was a blend of gin, Champagne, lemon juice and sugar. The name draws a comparison between the high potency of the cocktail and the power of the French 75 mm field gun. The newer spin-off utilizes an elderflower liqueur, such as St-Germain, instead of gin.
Start with a squeeze of lemon juice, add an ounce of elderflower liqueur, and top it off with a Spanish Cava, French Cremant or any domestic brut sparkling wine and a lemon twist. There is no need to add sugar to the 77 because of the elderflower liqueur. Add or subtract some of the lemon juice until you reach your desired level of sweetness. The more lemon juice you use, the less sweet the cocktail will taste.
The Italians have their own gem of a spritzer, the Bellini. The Bellini was invented in Venice and got its name when the color of the drink reminded its creator, Giuseppe Cipriani, of a painting by 15th century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini. This gem of a cocktail is lower in alcohol, making it an excellent Sunday starter or lunchtime beverage. The original Bellini uses two parts Prosecco to one part peach puree (think Palisade peaches).
Be sure to start with a chilled champagne flute, add the puree and Prosecco and stir gently. Other variations use a strawberry puree or pomegranate juice.
The most famous spritzer stems from the French cocktail Kir, which was a dry white wine, originally Aligoté from Burgundy, and creme de cassis (black currant liqueur). The creator and mayor of Dijon, France, Canon Felix Kir, is responsible for the original Kir cocktail. It is said that during World War II, Germans confiscated most of the area’s red wine. Left behind was white wine and creme de cassis – and voila, the Kir was born. While this cocktail is delicious, the Kir Royal is far more exciting.
The Kir Royal utilizes four parts brut sparkling wine per one half to one ounce of creme de cassis. As before, pour the liqueur first, add your sparkling wine and gently stir.
These great summer sparklers are great on their own but also pair excellently with appetizers, vinaigrette salads, fruit salads and desserts.
Alan Cuenca is an accredited oenophile and owner of Put a Cork in It, a Durango wine store. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.