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In the Food52 office, we don't just have happy hours, we have cocktail competitions, presided over by our Fun Czar (and head buyer for our shop), Jojo. "Sparkling" was the theme of the most recent one—perfect to pair with our staff holiday celebration.
I signed up, immediately thinking of the French 75 cocktail. It's a classic: gin, lemon, sugar, Champagne. You don't need to make one to know that's gonna be good. As you can imagine, though, we have a lot of discerning, jaded drinkers around the office, and so I didn't want to play it so safe. I needed a twist.
I found inspiration in a Wall Street Journal roundup of Prosecco cocktails. I was especially intrigued by NYC bartender Tiffany Short's riff on the French 75, the Golden Haymaker, which swaps the gin for vodka and substitutes simple sugar syrup for something I'd never even considered, let alone tried: wine syrup.
The hard part about wine syrup is convincing yourself that it's necessary. Making it is simple: You make sugar syrup, but instead of water, you use dry white wine, and you throw in some herbs and some grapefruit peel. And once you try it, you realize that, yes, this is a really good idea. It's floral like St. Germain, with some tartness offsetting the sugar, and it retains a surprising amount of the complexity of the wine you start with. (I used an inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc.)
I think you could make a lot of friends by simply putting an ounce of this stuff in the bottom of a flute and topping with sparkling wine. It also makes a delightful very-low-alcohol soda, topped with seltzer and a spritz of lemon. For the competition, I decided to dress it up in my own homage to the French 75. I call it the French 52.
For the wine syrup:
- 1 cup Sauvignon Blanc or other dry white wine
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 strips grapefruit peel (a little attached pith is fine)
For the cocktail:
- 1 1/2 ounces gin
- 1 ounce wine syrup (recipe above)
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce grapefruit juice
- 2 dashes citrus or orange bitters
- 2 ounces Prosecco or other dry sparking wine, to top
- 1 grapefruit twist, for garnish