Cocktails

The Classic Champagne Cocktail: Recipe & Variations

The classic Champagne cocktail combines a bitters-soaked sugar cube with the sparkling wine and a twist of lemon or orange into an effervescent drink with a bittersweet balance.

Classic Champagne Cocktail – Photo © Cocktails & Bars

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Origins of the Champagne Cocktail

The origins of the classic Champagne Cocktail may be lost in time but the original recipe that dates back to the 1800s was more likely made with a sweeter style of Champagne than today’s drier and Brut-style of wine.

Traditionally made with a  (like sec or demi-sec) and a small spoonful of sugar, today’s recipe relies on drier brut Champagne and a bitters-soaked sugar cube, which gradually imbues the drink with subtle, bittersweet balance.

The specs in Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide: How To Mix Drinks A Bon Vivant’s Companion 1862 reprint call for shaking the ingredients:

1/2 teaspoon of sugar

1 or 2 dashes of bitters

1 piece of lemon peel.

Fill tumbler one third full of broken ice, and fill balance with wine . Shake well and serve.

In The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock, the lemon peel is squeezed on top:

Put into a wine glass one lump of Sugar, and saturate it with Angostura Bitters, having added to this 1 limp of Ice, fill the glass with Champagne, squeeze on top a piece of lemon peel, and serve with a slice of orange.

David Embury in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks gives more specific instructions:

This drink should be served in a pre-chilled saucer champagne glass. Place a medium-sized loaf of sugar in the glass and saturate it with Angostura bitters – about 2 dashes. Fill with thoroughly chilled champagne. Add a twist of lemon or orange peel or both.

Some recipes call for the addition of Cognac. Embury says:

The addition of cognac in the ratio of 1 part of cognac to about 4 or 5 of champagne converts this cocktail into the Maharaja’s Burra Peg.

Some modern interpretations call for a liqueur be it an orange or fruit-based liqueur, Chartreuse, St-Germain Elderflower or Creme de Violette to be added to the glass before the champagne, blurring the lines between a Royale and the classic cocktail.

Classic Champagne Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients

  • 150ml Champagne
  • 1 white sugar cube
  • 5 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Glassware: champagne flute
Garnish: lemon twist

Method

Place the sugar cube on a napkin and saturate it with Angostura Bitters. Pour the Champagne into a flute or a cocktail glass and gently drop the saturated sugar cube in without making a splash. Garnish with a lemon twist.

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