Sparkling Wine

Classic Cocktails from A-Z: Champagne Cocktail

December 26, 2012

Some things just go together -- and the obvious accompaniment to food is drink. Welcome to Booze52, in which we explore all manner of libations, from A to Z, that do much more than just wash down a meal.

Today: Toast the New Year, with a twist.

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C is for Champagne Cocktail, which comes after M for Milk Punch in our world. It’s the holiday season, and we can drink what we want, right? New Year's just isn’t the same without a toast. 

From its translucent gold color to the tingle of its bubbles, champagne is made for celebrations. Legend has it that after Dom Perignon, a 17th-century Benedictine monk, stumbled upon the method for creating those wonderful bubbles, he declared, “Come quickly brothers, I am tasting the stars!” Champagne immediately became the drink of royalty and its de rigueur ceremonies.

So when did people begin playing around with champagne cocktails? In fact, Mark Twain is credited with the first mention of one back in 1869 -- in those days, a splash of brandy, a bit of sugar, and a drop or two of bitters went into the mix. Today’s classic just requires champagne poured over a bitters-soaked sugar cube. That’s it! (A gift for the tinkerers, and for your wallets: any drinkable sparkling wine will do.) 

Champagne Cocktail

1 sugar cube
3-5 dashes Angostura bitters
6 ounces sparkling wine or champagne
Lemon peel for garnish

Sprinkle sugar cube with a few good splashes of Angostura bitters and place at the bottom of a champagne flute. Fill glass with champagne; garnish with lemon twist.

To master the art of lemon twists, watch our how-to.

Save and print this recipe here.

For the best champagne cocktail... 

• Be sure to use a champagne or sparkling wine you would drink straight. For a true champagne that won’t completely wipe out your beverage budget for the month, consider NV Philippe Prié Champagne Brut Tradition
• Use a flute -- heirloom coupes are lovely, but alas, champagne holds its effervescence much better in a slim flute. Save your coupes for drinks that aren’t so touchy. 

To Mimosas … and Beyond!
A mimosa made with fresh-squeezed orange juice and sparkling wine is a thing of beauty, but it wouldn’t hurt to branch out a little. Some party-worthy variations: 

• The Poinsettia is one part cranberry juice to four parts champagne. Try rimming the glass with colored sugar before mixing.
• Experiment with your favorite liqueur -- I love pomegranate, but creme de violette works well, too. Pour an ounce into your flute, and top the rest with wine. 

Photos by James Ransom 

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Abs
  • Dr.Insomnia
  • howiff
I spend about an equal amount of time behind the laptop and behind the stove. In between preparing and writing about food, I love to hang out with my husband, three children, big shaggy dog and two cats. History is also my thing, especially the Regency period, U.S. Westward expansion and World War II. Favorite drinks: good pinot noirs and classic martinis. Favorite book: Pride & Prejudice. Favorite obsessions: Laura Ingalls Wilder and South Dakota


Abs December 29, 2012
Sounds like a nice twist on champagne, my personal favorite celebratory drink, and not too sweet!
Dr.Insomnia December 26, 2012
I really like the idea of adding brandy or another fortified wine or flavored liqueur as they did in Twain's day. This sounds more like champagne with a garnish. At the very least, some better bitters, maybe something flavored like the baked apple bitters in our cabinet, sounds like it would be a lot more interesting.
howiff August 4, 2021
Completely agree. A champagne cocktail must have a splash of Cointreau and brandy along with the bitters and sugar cube. It packs a punch. As we say in my family: Drinking a champagne cocktail is like having breasts, one is not enough and three are too many.