Champagne, long a talisman of class, is often drunk unmixed, but it has just as much to offer when playing well with others. The champagne cocktail has been around since the 1800s, and since then has become a sign of celebration, sophistication and summer. Mikee Collins, general manager at Vine Double Bay, has a couple of favourite mixes when it comes to crafting champagne cocktails.
“My first was a classic champagne cocktail, many moons ago – a bitters-soaked sugar cube and a splash of cognac topped with champagne,” Collins says. Since then he’s tried or made countless variations.
The first came from cocktail messiah Jerry Thomas and his influential bartenders guide, How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant's Companion, of 1862. The first drink book ever published in America featured the champagne cocktail made with Angostura bitters, brandy and sugar, garnished with a maraschino cherry. Since then the idea has spread into a thousand varieties and editions, including the Mimosa, sparkling punch and the French 75.
Collin’s twist on the French 75 is a favourite says the bartender. “Ours combines Tanqueray No. TEN gin with the subtle richness and acidity of Kilikanoon sparkling Vouvray [chenin blanc],” says Collins. He also makes a Crusta, which mixes Applejack brandy, Cointreau, bitters and lemon juice, Vouvray and garnished with a lemon twist. “It's a little sweet, a little tart, a little rich, well balanced, effervescent and textural,” says Collins.
As with so many cocktails, Collins explains that the crucial element of any champagne cocktail is the quality of ingredients, and presentation. He says a good one makes an excellent food match or aperitif. “I find it pairs quite well with some richer fried foods, like our duck croquettes with sauce gribiche, or even the saltiness of charcuterie.”
Mikee Collins’ Twist On the French 75
Approximately 1 standard drink.
30ml Tanqueray No. TEN gin
15ml lemon myrtle syrup
15ml lemon juice
Kilikanoon sparkling Vouvray (Chenin Blanc)
Take 500mls of sugar syrup (60% water, 40% sugar). Heat the syrup in a pot. Turn off when combined and place 10 lemon myrtle leaves in the pot and let cool.
Combine 15mls of the infused syrup with the remaining ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake then double strain into a champagne flute. Top with the sparkling Vouvray and garnish with lemon zest and lemon myrtle leaf.