I visited a friend last week, who with a sick child and absent husband was sorely in need of cheering up. So I decanted some of my Creme de Violette to bring as a gift and picked up a bottle of champagne on the way. After all there’s nothing like a few bubbles to lift the spirits and the decadence of a champagne cocktail on a Tuesday night is a perfect antidote to ‘mumsy’ blues.
One of my favourite champagne drinks is a French 75 (gin, lemon, sugar, champagne) and as I had the Violette with me, I came up with this variation of the classic recipe. I expected it to turn out pale blue but when I added the champagne it became a lovely eau-de-nil with an opalescent shimmer; a thoroughly elegant drink that retains the kick for which the 75 is renowned (it’s named after a powerful artillery gun used widely in Word War I).
I loved the colour so much I decided to name the drink after that. In my head Eau-de-nil has an affinity with the Deco period, partly from the Egyptian connection and partly for its frequent use in Deco jewellery, clothing and objets d’art. And as cocktails have the same affinity with this style, it will just about do as a name for a drink – but anglicised as my french pronunciation is terrible.
Talking of style, I would not have served this in a flute if I’d been at home. There’s something so drearily functional about flutes with their retention of bubbles and ability to fit more glasses on a tray or in a cupboard. Champagne is surely all about glamour and what has functionality to do with glamour? Furthermore, it’s impossible to drain a flute with style or successfully flirt while sipping from one – an act where a saucer comes strongly into its own in two simple steps:
1. Lower lips to glass
2. Look up through eyelashes as you take a sip
I hardly need add I’m a die-hard aficionado of the champagne saucer and am happy to see they are coming back into fashion – in bars anyway.
4 champagne (I used Brut but an off-dry may work better)
1/2 Creme de Violette
Few dashes lemon juice
Strawberry or lemon garnish
Shake the gin, Creme de Violette, and lemon with some ice. Pour into a champagne glass containing a slice of ripe strawberry and top up with champagne.
For the photograph above, I popped the strawberry on the glass for decoration but it adds extra depth and sweetness if placed in glass before adding the liquid. If strawberries are not available then a twist of lemon also works, but may need a dash or two of simple syrup.