Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

Last time I was in Paris I really enjoyed the way the cafés serve sugar cubes with your espresso. It's little things like this, for me, that help to define a place. Anyway, I noticed that each café seemed to have its own brand of sugar cubes, and as a somewhat obsessive and strange person, I decided that these would make a nice souvenir. I started walking out of cafes with sugar cubes in my pockets, figuring that I'd enjoy using them someday. Preview of me at 74 years old.

But recently they did come in handy. Hello, Champagne Cocktails!

The classic Champagne Cocktail is a classic for a reason - it's festive and delicious. You can make 12 of them just as quickly and easily as you can make 2 of them - they're that easy to make. And the best part is, it's not necessary to use real Champagne for this cocktail. You can use whatever inexpensive sparkling wine you have. Better to use something decent, of course, because bad wine makes a bad cocktail (as you'll see soon).

Here is the recipe: put a few drops of bitters (Angostura is fine, but something like Regan's Orange Bitters is even better) on a sugar cube and let it soak in. Place the sugar cube at the bottom of a Champagne flute and slowly fill with sparkling wine. The sweet, spicy, herbal, bitter mixes well with clean sparkling wine and it's a very nice drink. Casual on the deck but you can definitely put on a black tie for this one.

I used something called Trocadero this time, rather gross, sadly. It's a sparkling wine from the Savoie region and I got for about $9. At 11.5% alcohol I figured it wouldn't get us all whacked out, anyway. But it was too sweet and and way too toasty. I should have known, as the back label boasts "Jean-Paul Trocadero moved his family from Paris to the region known as Savoie after the Napoleonic wars. Upon arriving he discovered the favorite local beverage to be a special blend of grapes forming a truly unique and magnificent sparkling wine. He enhanced the flavors making the wine fruitier with a fuller bouquet, and created Trocadero!"

I still cannot believe that after reading the back label, I actually bought this wine. I mean, how did Jean-Paul enhance the flavors? By dumping in lots of sugar? What if I told you that the Champagne cocktails were still pretty good? They were. Next time we'll use Prosecco. Give this a try though, guests love it, it's fun and easy, and it made me feel more sophisticated than I actually am.


Anonymous said...

Um, you're not the only person to snitch Parisian sugar cubes (the little chocolates that often come with the coffee make good souvenirs, too). I recall, in a far distant past, ordering my first Champagne cocktail. I think I was trying to emulate Victor Laszlo (of 'Casablanca').

Joe said...

That's a scary story on the back of the label - I would probably have left that one at the store! Definitely going to try those cocktails this summer (why wait, the weather's been beautiful). Where are those Regan's Orange Bitters from, by the way? Never heard of them.

Brooklynguy said...

i didn't see any chocolates. hmmmm. maybe i wasn't cool enough to merit the chocolates.

i should have left it at the store, no doubt. this is a good drink though, and with the proper clean dry sparkling wine, like a decent prosecco...good stuff. regan's is small batch stuff. google it and you'll see how to order it, although it's pretty expensive, if i'm not mistaken.

Aaron said...

Having lived in Paris for a few months, I can offer some clarification re: the branded sugar cubes (not too relevatory, but I'll proceed regardless). Cafe means coffee in French; LaDoux and Cafes Richard are quite subpar coffee roasters, and along with the coffee, they sell branded sugar cubes to cafes in a promotional attempt. It's like if a cafe that served illy coffee had illy-wrapped cubes.

As for the champagne cocktail, I think it's fundamentally flawed in its construction, or antiquated, at the least. The sugar barely dissolves, and the bitters just give a very slight perfume to the champagne. In an inexpensive sparkler, this is insufficient to hide its flaws, and in an expensive champagne, you're masking the very subtleties you paid for. If anything, I'll start building them with simple syrup. Part of the fun may be gone, but it will make for a far better drink.

Anonymous said...

I used to spend a lot of time on business trips in France, and the champagne cocktail I grew to love there was slightly different, solving the sugar dissolving problem and making it a touch more luxurious: drip a few drops of Angostura bitters on a sugar cube -brown sugar for preference - then place it at the bottom of a champagne flute; pour over enough brandy to cover the cube; top up with champagne. The brandy deals with the sugar cube at the right pace - it's gone in a few seconds, but lasts long enough to be noticed by the recipient.

Eri said...

Bonjour! Hope you don't mind, but I used one of your photographs in a blog post about sugar cubes (credited you and linked to your site). You can check it out if you're interested at

Merci beaucoup,


alchemistgeorge said...

Notice how often the champagne foams up and jumps out of the glass when it hits the sugar cube? Pour the champagne first, then drop in the sugar cube. I picked up this tip from the folks at Bix.

Victor Lazlo aside, I'm also not much of a fan of "the champagne cocktail" - I guess I'm just not that big a champagne drinker. I thought I had read that before WWII that French Champagne was much sweeter than it is now, although of course I can't find the reference today.

Personally I'd much rather have a French 75 (gin,lemon, sugar, champagne) or a Seelbach (bourbon, cointreau, angostura, peychaud, champagne).

Anonymous said...

I always finish off my champagne cocktails with a float of cognac (or brandy). Alternately, you could splash the sugar cube with the cognac and top up with champs. And really, for a CHAMPAGNE cocktail, should it not be true to name and be made with champagne? Life is too short to trifle with truisms.