Happy Election Day, everyone! Like most of you, I’m going to spend the rest of the day glued to CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and Comedy Central (Daily Show/Colbert Report special!) watching the results roll in. I have CNN.com set up to track the local results I care most about (just say no to prop 8, yes on prop 2). I have a fridge full of beer and a bar full of booze to drown my sorrows if any of the unmentionables happen. I am so ready for this. I don’t think I’ve been this amped about watching election returns since I spent a cold night in November 2000 at work with friends, watching five computer monitors light up blue, red, red, red…red. I have much higher hopes for tonight.
In the mean time, I have a book review that should keep everyone’s spirits up. A few months back I received an email about a new book coming out, 101 Champagne Cocktails by Kim Haasarud. I’m not usually much on single-subject cocktail books—you know, the kind that are full of drinks that end in -tini and mostly consist of various flavored vodkas. However, I made an exception for this one because I love sparkling wine and because I’ve been favorably impressed with Kim Haasarud’s recipes in the past. For those of you who are unfamiliar with her, Ms. Haasarud is a consultant based in Los Angeles and she’s written three previous books: 101 Margaritas, 101 Sangrias and Pitcher Drinks and 101 Martinis. Heh. See what I mean about the -tini thing?
Anyway, my weakness for the bubbly got the better of me and I gave the book a spin. The presentation is gorgeous, very clean and elegant, and Alexandra Grablewski’s photos are beautiful. Flipping through, the book contains pretty much every kind of sparkling wine you can imagine—champagne, cava, prosecco, spumante, rosé. Up front, there are recipes for purees and mixers, including a fresh sour. The only recipe that felt curiously absent was one for grenadine, which is called for a number of times in the book.
My disdain for the -tini craze notwithstanding, there are definitely cocktails in this book that piqued my interest. Besides Haasarud’s originals, there are previously published cocktails from Dale DeGroff and Ted Haigh included, amongst others. If you have a bottle of maraschino that you’ve been trying to work through, this book will help you with that—there are a fair number of recipes that call for it. To give the book a workout, we picked up three bottles of bubbly (champagne, cava and prosecco) and did our best to vanquish as many recipes as possible: Framboise Cassis Cocktail, Kiwi Royale, Valencia Royale, White Lavender, Bada Bing, Stormy Ginger Fizz, Happy Hemingway, Magnolia and the Limoncello Sparkle. Oh, the trials I endure for faithful cocktail writing.
I have included two recipes below—Bada Bing and Happy Hemingway—for your recipe testing pleasure, including my notes based on making these at home. If you like them, you may want to check out the rest of the book, or think about it for the white elephant gift exchange this Christmas. After all, who doesn’t like champagne?
2 basil leaves, chiffonaded
3 pitted Bing cherries
1 oz Plymouth gin
½ oz simple syrup
½ oz maraschino liqueur
½ lime juice
3-4 oz champagne
Shake basil, cherries, gin, simple syrup, maraschino and lime juice with crushed ice. Pour into a highball glass and add more crushed ice, if needed. Top with champagne and stir. Garnish with two skewered cherries, if desired.
This was an interesting drink. The maraschino was a bit overpowering here, so I’d try it with a quarter ounce next time. The flavors go together well, but the basil didn’t come through quite strongly enough for me—I think a basil leaf garnish would help reinforce the aromatic qualities. Otherwise, an unusual and refreshing drink. I wouldn’t have guessed that there was champagne in this if I hadn’t known.
2 oz grapefruit juice
1 oz light rum
½ oz maraschino liqueur
½ oz simple syrup
1½ oz champagne
Shake all but champagne vigorously with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with champagne and garnish with a grapefruit or lemon twist.
Haasarud introduces this as a take on the Hemingway Daiquiri, one of my personal favorites. This was a great little champagne cocktail—it holds true to the flavor of the daiquiri but adds an appealing dry character from the wine, plus a lighter body and more effervescent mouthfeel. This was definitely one of my favorites from the book, along with the White Lavender, Stormy Ginger Fizz and Magnolia. There are a few more I want to try (Starfish Cooler, I’m looking at you), but all in all my experiments with 101 Champagne Cocktails were a very pleasant surprise. Christmas partying, here I come!