Toast 2006 With New Champagne Cocktails -- And Sparkling Wine to Suit Any Budget
Toast 2006 With New Champagne Cocktails -- And Sparkling Wine to Suit Any Budget

By Candy Sagon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 28, 2005

As champagne drinking territory, the Washington area ranks 11th in the nation. It is undoubtedly helped along by the fact that bartenders at many of the hippest bars and lounges have been using champagne as a mixer to create fruity, fizzy cocktails.

The classic (and classy) champagne cocktail -- a staple at 2941 Restaurant in Falls Church, says veteran bartender Joe Armenti -- is a flute of bubbly revved up with a sugar cube soaked in bitters. But bartenders (or mixologists, as they like to be called) are branching out from there, using flavored vodka, fruit juice, sour mix and even tequila to create signature drinks.

Champagne and sparkling wine sales, which plummeted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, are fizzing again. The Wine Institute, a trade group, reports that 30 million gallons of sparkling wine were sold last year, and this year looks on track to be even better.

For the 52 weeks ending Nov. 19, Americans spent $611 million on sparkling wine, according to the newest figures from AC Nielsen, compared with $572 million for the same period last year.

At both IndeBleu and Topaz in Washington, the favored color for champagne cocktails is blue. IndeBleu bartender Tim Stover combines champagne with a splash of Blue Curacao and Grand Marnier to create the Bleu Sky. At Topaz, the signature Blue Nirvana cocktail has a citrus twist, thanks to flavored vodka and sour mix.

Degrees bar in Georgetown goes the red route with some cranberry juice and a whiff of Grand Marnier. At Zengo in Chinatown, the margarita gets turned on its head with some raspberry puree and a float of champagne. And at Poste Moderne Brasserie in the Penn Quarter, bartender Gina Chersevani keeps her guests healthy with champagne mixed with blueberry pomegranate juice.

Obviously, if you have shelled out $50, $100 or more for a fine bottle of French champagne, we're not going to recommend that you add a dash of fruit juice or liqueur.

But if you've chosen one of the perfectly pleasant $8 to $12 sparklers available this year (see "Good Mixers," at right), you might consider jazzing it up with a splash of color and citrus.

Champagne Cocktail

Makes 1 serving

Veteran bartender Joe Armenti at 2941 Restaurant in Falls Church doesn't fool around. He likes the classic version of this drink.

Place 1 sugar cube soaked with 3 drops Angostura bitters in a flute and add champagne (be careful -- it will foam).

Ingredients too varied for meaningful nutritional analysis.

Recipes tested by Candy Sagon; e-mail questions

The Bleu Sky

Makes 1 serving

Bartender Tim Stover of IndeBleu likes to use Gruet, a champagne from New Mexico, in this signature drink.

Pour 1/4 ounce Grand Marnier in flute, add champagne, float 1/4 ounce Blue Curacao on top.

Pom Royale

Makes 1 serving

Poste Moderne Brasserie bartender Gina Chersevani likes to use either Domaine St. Michelle or Paul Louis Blanc de Blanc for this drink.

Fill flute three-fourths full with champagne and add a splash of blueberry pomegranate juice. Top with fresh blueberries or lemon twist.

Poinsettia Fizz

Makes 1 serving

David Murphy of Degrees bar in the Ritz-Carlton, Georgetown, created this sign-of-the-seasons cocktail.

Pour 1 ounce cranberry juice and 1/2 ounce Grand Marnier in a flute, then top off with champagne.

Mexican Riviera

Makes 1 serving

Champagne is the crowning flourish to this rosy margarita at Zengo.

Pour 1 ounce tequila, 2 ounces sour mix and 2 tablespoons fresh raspberry puree in a flute. Top with 1-ounce float of champagne.

Cherry Sparkler

Makes 1 serving

This rosy drink is the number two seller at Bar Rouge, says lounge manager Mike Hill. "It's a good cocktail to sip with food because it's mostly champagne."

Put a maraschino cherry in the bottom of the flute. Pour in 1/2 ounce orange-flavored vodka (the bar uses Stoli O) and a dash of peach schnapps, then fill with champagne.

Blue Nirvana

Makes 1 serving

The signature blue drink at Topaz. (If you don't have Blue Curacao, a splash of Grand Marnier works well, although without the color.)

Pour 1 ounce citrus-flavored vodka, 1 ounce Blue Curacao and a splash of sour mix in a flute, then fill with champagne.

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