Champagne: a drink for all seasons

Elderflower champagne cocktail

Elder flower champagne cocktail

As the festive season careers towards us, I thought it a good time to post some recipes for champagne cocktails. The Classic Champagne cocktail (brandy,  sugar cube, Angostura bitters, champagne) is a great favourite of mine as its easy to make with a rich aromatic flavour – great in the winter. Apparently we Brits drink so many of these at this time of year, that we were a major factor in the Great Angostura Drought last January – basically we snaffled the last of the supplies just in time for Christmas….

I started thinking about alternative fizz concoctions when both the Vintage Wedding Dress Company and a friend who was getting married asked me to come up with suitable drinks earlier this year. I’d just been out foraging for elder flowers so naturally this was my starting point (see the spring recipe below). I experimented with adding lemon, lime, different bitters but ultimately realised simple was best. The idea of simplicity then led on to seasonality –  it’s easier, cheaper, not to mention greener, to use seasonal ingredients – so each of the cocktails below has a  key seasonal ingredient that I have gently added complementary flavour to but hopefully not masked.

Obviously champagne is a winner at any time of year but adding your own seasonal touches is not only more thoughtful than plumping for a Mimosa or a Bellini but is a chance to show off your creativity. In the recipes below I’ve used a base measure of 50 ml champagne which makes it easy to multiply quantities for large numbers – 1 bottle champagne makes 15 cocktails.

Spring – Elder flower Fizz

25 ml Elder flower cordial (recipe for elder flower cordial)
25 ml Gin
50 ml Champagne
Lime wedges
Mint sprig

Add gin, lime and elder flower to champagne flute. Top with champagne, rub lime wedge round rim of glass and garnish with a sprig of mint.

I actually used a home-made geranium gin (add flowers and leaves to gin and leave for one month) for this drink which added a gorgeous blush hue and extra floral notes)  –  a geranium petal would be a lovely garnish if this was made late spring or summer.

Commercial alternatives: Elder flower cordial is easy to get commercially but try to buy one with as few additives as possible for improved flavour. St Germain Elder flower liqueur would also be a good substitute for both the cordial and gin – it’s utterly lovely.

Other spring suggestions: Rhubarb  syrup (add some dried Seville orange peel to this for a zingy flavour); Pineapple, rum and sage cordial

Summer – Raspberry Royale

Raspberry Royale

Raspberry Royale

30 ml raspberry and rum cordial (add 100 ml rum to this recipe for raspberry syrup )
Dash of lemon juice
50 ml Champagne

Add the cordial and lemon juice to a Champagne flute and top with  champagne.

This drink is pretty enough not to need a garnish but some lemon peel squeezed over the top to release the oil and then added to the glass adds a delicious aroma and looks pretty. Best to omit this step for a large numbers of guests.

Other summer suggestions: strawberry and basil; cherry eau de vie, gooseberry and elder flower cordial;

Autumn – Plum Rum Fizz

Plum Rum Fizz

Plum Rum Fizz

30 ml Plum rum (recipe for Plum Rum)
Dash of ginger syrup (recipe for ginger syrup)
50 ml Champagne

Add plum rum and ginger syrup to champagne flute and top with Champagne. If using wild plums, add one or two to the glass.

Commercial alternatives: Belvoir ginger cordial and  Bramley and Gage plum liqueur

Other Autumn suggestions: Pear juice with dash of Lemon and Thyme syrup; Blackberry cordial (try a Bramble Royale (Gin, lemon, cordial and champagne); Damson Gin

Winter – Chestnut Kir

Using chestnut liqueur instead of creme de Cassis in Kir is traditional in the Dordogne.

Chestnut Kir

Chestnut Kir

30 ml Chestnut, vanilla and cinnamon liqueur (recipe for Chestnut and cinnamon liqueur)
50 ml Champagne

Add liqueur to champagne flute and top with champagne flute. Garnish with orange spiral.

Commercial alternatives: Creme de Chataigne

Other winter suggestions: home-made grenadine; clementine juice with clove syrup

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