Most places around the world have thrown in the towel. Christmas and New Year’s are now both in the rear-view mirror. But here, we did our best to give those two seasons their due, and now we go into a time at which we have had a lot of celebration practice. We have even doubled-down our well-deserved reputation as a town that knows how to throw a party during this calendar period.
Carnival is officially here, and this year, we have been blessed with a long season – right at two months to be exact. In that long period of time, we can do an amazing amount of celebration. And we will, without a doubt.
All of which means, we have some time to drink very well. If that’s not a siren call for champagne cocktails, I can’t imagine what would be. For my money, you can talk all you want about the “perfect mixer,” but it always comes down to champagne in my estimation.
The elegance that comes from a mixture of wine with bubbles, bitters, touch of fruit and a surprise or two is welcome and invited. Here are a couple of recipes that deserve the Carnival treatment, which means slowly appreciated with a lot of excitement alongside.
In all recipes, we recommend Champagne Brut. Any other sparkling wine (except for the last drink’s prosecco), or any other champagne sweetness level, will result in a sweeter drink than the recipe intends. And well note that the champagne is always the last ingredient added to the drink.
Special thanks to punch.
Dale deGroff’s Champagne Punch
- 1 cup maraschino liqueur, preferably Luxardo
- 2 cups Benedictine
- 3 cups Cognac, VSOP or XO
- 6 bottles Champagne, well chilled
- 4 cups soda water
- 1 pineapple, peeled and cut into cubes
- 6 oranges, cut into six pieces each
- 2 grapefruits, peeled and cut into cubes
- 2 lemons, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 cup sugar
- Garnish: Orange slices, pineapple wedges
- Muddle the fruit and sugar with a cup of water.
- Pour the maraschino liqueur, Benedictine and Cognac over the crushed fruit and mix well.
- Cover and allow the mixture to sit in the refrigerator for several hours.
- Remove the punch from the refrigerator and stir.
- Strain the punch into a large punch bowl and add the chilled Champagne and club soda along with ice.
- Serve in wine glasses over ice and garnish with orange slices and pineapple wedges.
Hibiscus Punch Royale
Martin Cate, Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco
- 18 ounces blended aged rum, preferably Appleton Estate Reserve Blend
- 12 ounces hibiscus syrup (see below); or Jack From Brooklyn Sorel Liqueur
- 4 ounces rich demerara simple syrup, (2:1, sugar: water)
- 6 ounces lime juice
- 24 ounces Champagne, to top
- Garnish: hibiscus flowers in syrup, drained, lime wheels, mint sprigs
- Combine all ingredients and chill for two hours before serving.
- 20 minutes before serving, add chilled ingredients to punch bowl filled with cracked ice. Top with chilled Champagne and stir gently to combine.
- Garnish bowl with preserved wild hibiscus flowers resting on lime wheels, and mint sprigs.
- Ladle into cups to serve.
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup dried hibiscus blossoms
- 1 lemon peel
- 1 cup sugar
To make hibiscus syrup, add water, hibiscus blossoms and lemon peel to a pot and bring to boil. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Turn off heat and allow to cool before storing in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
For an individual serving of punch:
- 1 ½- ounces blended aged rum
- 1-ounce hibiscus syrup or Jack from Brooklyn Sorel Liqueur
- 1/3-ounce rich demerara simple syrup, (2:1, sugar: water)
- 1/2 lime juice
- 2-ounces Champagne, to top
Not paying attention to the bottle of spirits desired, the mixologist/owner at Milan’s Bar Basso picked up a bottle of prosecco instead of gin while making a Negroni. The resulting cocktail, about which no one complained, was named the Italian word for mistake.
Naren Young, Dante, New York
- 1-ounce Cappelletti Aperitivo Americano Rosso
- 1-ounce Cinzano 1757 Rosso Vermouth
- 1/4-ounce Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto
- 1 bar spoon edible gold flakes
- Prosecco, to top
- Garnish: orange wedge
- Add the Cappelletti, vermouth, Italicus and gold flakes to a small wine glass filled with ice.
- Top with prosecco, and garnish with an orange wedge.
All the drinks are festive, and all are easy to construct. If multiple drinks will be served or if you an encore serving will be appreciated, combine all ingredients beforehand, except the sparkling wine. Set the almost-made cocktails in refrigeration. When the drink is requested, simply add the wine, garnish, and serve. Enjoy!
Read Happy Hour here on www.myneworleans.com on Wednesdays, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature about cocktails in New Orleans, every month in New Orleans Magazine.