In Praise of Champagne

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I've said it before, but it bears repeating. If it were at all possible, without incurring both the resultant debt and health issues, I would replace water in my diet with Champagne. That's right, I would make coffee with Champagne in the morning, boil noodles in Champagne for lunch and even brush my teeth with Champagne before I went to bed.

While I contend that the dry martini is the King of Cocktails, Champagne is my queen. To drink a glass of real Champagne--from Champagne, France--is both thrilling and luxurious. No better aphrodisiac exists than the tiny bubbles tickling your pyloric valve, allowing the rush of alcohol to enter the veins at rapid speeds, while warming the skin and inducing a euphoric feeling throughout the body.

One of my favorite uses of Champagne in cocktails is damn near a better combination than peanut butter and chocolate.

Along with Champagne's theoretical use in personal hygiene and libidinous use in improving one's mood, it also makes a compelling cocktail ingredient. Take for example the venerable Champagne Cocktail, as simple as it is elegant: Angostura bitters-soaked sugar cube, lemon peel, and bubbly elixir. Many other great Champagne cocktails can be found.

One of my favorite uses of Champagne in cocktails is damn near a better combination than peanut butter and chocolate. Pre-Volsteadian bartender William "Cocktail Bill" Boothby topped his Manhattan with Champagne. The one and only complaint I've ever had with the Manhattan is that it tends to be a little flabby, especially when Bourbon is used. In the Boothby version, the Champagne adds a lighter, zesty quality to the husky drink. The bubbles lift the aromatics of the vermouth and bitters, while softening the blow of the whiskey.

Another stellar sparkling combo, made by chance discovery, is the Negroni Sbagliato, or "wrong" Negroni. Legend has it that a barista at Bar Basso in Milan mistakenly poured spumante in place of gin. The result is a damn good drink--the light presence of botanicals, strong bitter core and soft, dancing mousse make a complex but refreshingly light drink.

Lastly, for those who are price-conscious--as am I--I might recommend using a Champagne-style bubbly from the outskirts of Champagne: Charles de Fère, Blanc de Blanc, in place of the real deal. Yes, I know I said real Champagne, but this is a very close contender and significantly cheaper. Come to think of it, this may make my dream that much closer to realization. But really, does Champagne make a good hair conditioner?

Negroni Sbagliato


    • 2 oz. Champagne
    • 1 oz. Sweet vermouth
    • 1 oz. Campari

Combine ingredients in wine glass. Add ice and stir until chilled. Garnish with a long orange peel.

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Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He sits on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail. More

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He travels throughout the country and around the world in search of great drinks, and the stories behind them. Derek's methodical approach to cocktails was profiled in the Wall Street Journal's "A Master of Mixological Science" and his martini lauded as the best in America by GQ. He's been in numerous media outlets featuring his approach to better drinking, including CNN, The Rachel Maddow Show and FOX. Derek is a founding member of the D.C. Craft Bartender's Guild and on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail.
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