You know, 2020 hasn’t been overly-packed with good days. There have been some, I’m sure and I’m hoping, for everyone, some big-ish good days, and some small-ish good days, even within it all. I had one recently when some bubbly showed up here, which made the day more, well, bubbly. It was also bubby from Italy (you know I love Italy, right?), specifically Trentodoc sparkling wine – Trentodoc being from the Trentino region, which is in the far north of Italy, a mountain-alp-y region, one which also has some Mediterranean-ness on the lower slopes. I’ll admit that’s not the Italian area I know best, but after tasting the sparkling wine from there, I need to know more! Made in the Meted Classico, or classic method, Trentodoc sparklers are also made from picked-by-hands Trentino grapes. Sounds yummy, right? But the proof is in the bottle, as the saying goes, and the one I’m popping off now is Maso Martis Extra Brut Rose.
Starting with its pale pink-y coloring, and enticing effervescence, it’s a wine you’ll want to drink as you pour – which is what you want, right? The taste (pino nero grapes, if you’re interested) has a berry-centric-ness, raspberries, strawberries, and then some currants, with a few delicate herbal notes, too, and a creamy nature ideal for a sunny day, a date night around the appetizer course, or, really, almost anytime. It’s also a swell base for cocktails. Well, you wouldn’t think I wouldn’t try it in a cocktail, right? I do so love bubble mixes, and with a flavorsome rose like this, I had to see how it’d play with others. Starting with another delicious number (and by some crazy occurrence also showed on the porch), but from closer to US home: Clear Creek Pear brandy. Made with Bartlett pears grown in OR (where Clear Creek is), it has a phenomenal pear nature, from the small to the lingering pear echoes, while still maintaining a warming brandy undercurrent. Then, I traveled back to Italy (to help the wine feel at home), with bitter and beautiful classic Campari – which not only adds layers of taste, but a rich redness, which is further underlined by our last ingredient, homemade grenadine. Altogether, what a drink! Refreshing but bursting with delights, and one the showcases and perfectly utilizes the wine and brandy. Dive in.
Whoa, summer is already deep into its summerness, and I feel I haven’t had nearly enough bubbly sparkly shimmery (while still cooling) drinks yet. It goes so fast! Could be that with all that’s happening in the world, having a celebratory effervescent mix seems, oh, off a bit? But that’d be silly, cause there is still so much to celebrate, every day, if I can be a little starry-eyed. Maybe I’m just lazy (far more likely)? Or maybe I haven’t had the right mixing option?
Luckily, at least for the latter open-ended (potentially rhetorical) question, a nice selection of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s new line of wine in single-serve aluminum bottles recently showed up in the mail (see, that’s something worth celebrating), and the selection included the “Bubbly” white wine variety (or varietal, if you will, hahaha). All of the four different options have screw-top caps for those that don’t finish in one go – but at 250 ml, I can’t see that happening for you! – lovely artsy decoratives (I made that word up!), and come in a 2-pack. The non-Bubbly choices include a crisp, citrus-y Pinot Grigio and a summer-y and strawberry-and-currant-y Rosé that I’ve tasted, and a Something Sweet white wine blend I’m excited to taste.
But back to Bubbly! It’s made from a bountiful blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Muscat Canelli, and Gruner Veltliner, and delivers a nice apple core flavor, with a little spice, a hint of summer, a dry enough nature, and a clean inviting bubbly-ness. Well worth having chilled all on its own under the shining sun (though I suppose some might be too much in the wine snob category to sip something from an aluminum container – let’s pity them, shall we?), Bubbly also is convivial enough to serve as a solid base for a classic Champagne Cocktail or other sparkling-based cocktail. And the 250 ml size makes it ideal for making two drinks, which is what you’ll want to do so your paramour, bestie, spouse, sanitized neighbor, or other personality doesn’t feel left out. It’s what I did! With that very-legendary and mentioned-above Champagne Cocktail. Side-non-Bubbly-note: I suggest you choose Scrappy’s Orange bitters for your bitters here. Because it has a rich, herbal, bitter-y flavor that goes perfectly (so well that I just ran out of my bottle. That’s the opposite of an occasion worth celebrating).
Let’s face it – we’re not getting any younger. Really, nothing is, I suppose. But wait, as the year rolls out into the sunset, and as a new one rolls in, let’s not get all down-in-the-mouth, and think about getting older. But instead, remember all the many wondrous days, and all the ones happening now, and how we can be youthful all year round, and many other things one might find on a card – hahaha! Or, skip all that, and sip a Happy Youth instead.
Bubbly cocktails are good all the year round. This is an incontrovertible fact. However, if you wanted to make the point that bubbly cocktails are even finer this time of the year, because of the elegant effervescence they bring to the season, well, I wouldn’t argue. Which is why today I’m sipping this Italian-inspired sparkler from Champagne Cocktails. Because I don’t like arguing. No, no, it’s because it’s a darn tasty drink, a bubbly number that’s a little different, intriguing, yummy-licious.
This bubble number is ideal for taking your New Year’s Eve celebrations from mundane to insane (in the good way), from dull to dandy, and from so-so to go-go. Not only does it take the spotlight drink into another realm of awesome, but as it’s also a drink that inducing dancing, it’s sure to add the hop to your New Year’s Eve step. It does take a little bit of prior planning, cause you have to make lavender simple syrup. But that’s not tough at all. Just add 1/4-cup fresh lavender, 2 cups sugar, and 1-1/2 cups water to a medium-sized saucepan. Raise the heat to medium high, and heat until it reaches a low boil, stirring regularly. Once it reaches that low boil, reduce the heat to medium low and keep the syrup at a simmer, still stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Then strain it, and start singing Auld Lang Syne.
Yeah, that’s right, we’re going back-to-back with the first two episodes of the new season of the Cocktail to Cocktail Hour (which is good, in a way, cause who really knows when the next one will be?). Partially we’re doing this because I love you so, so very much. And partially because Episode 2 is a very special holiday cocktail, and, well, the holidays are certainly in full swing. The bubbly combo in question is the Tip Top, a sparkling wine-brandy-Benedictine affair from Dark Spirits that’ll make any winter holiday you care to celebrate better than you could ever imagine (especially New Year’s Eve naturally). So get with the holiday spirit why dontcha?
This elegant bubbly number from Good Spirits has a certain savoir faire that gets the point across without becoming all Herb Tarlek about the occasion. By which I mean to say that it’s sexy without being annoying and that it should be served at a time when you’re wanting to have a drink that both tastes good, shows you have class, and is going to be consumed by you and another you that you may just smooch later in the evening.
Does the drink also share the name of a famous movie pirate ship? Sure does. Does this mean that you should start talking like a pirate in the midst of the date-in-front-of-a-fireplace that I alluded to above? Well, I would normally say “of course not,” but if it seems that some “shiver me timbers” and “argh mateys” make sense to you in the moment, then sure, go right ahead. The drink sure won’t mind.
Black Pearl, Serves 2
2 ounce Cognac
2 ounces Tia Maria
2 cherriest, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Cognac and Tia Maria. Stir well.
2. Strain the mix equally into two flute or wine glass (though the latter won’t get you any smoove points). Top each with Champagne (should be about 4 ounce apiece). Garnish each with a cherry either dropped in, or speared and floated on top.
Earlier this week (see below) I talked about building a better Gin and Tonic (though the world didn’t beat a path to my door–yet) for pal Erika’s birthday. But we didn’t solely serve G&Ts at the birthday party, though they were quite fantastic. We also whipped out a new-old drink, or old-new, in honor of the occasion. See, I had some homemade blackberry liqueur around that was begging to be consumed in something bubbly and some nice recently-released local vodka begging for the same. I couldn’t resist the call, and so fashioned a drink based on one created for another pal, Rebecca (a recipe for The Rebecca, the drink, can be found in either Good Spirits or Champagne Cocktails, both of which I hope you have, cause we’re pals, right?). The Erikecca combines the two ingredients touched on above, Skip Rock vodka–a smooth, berry-friendly, potato vodka made in Snohomish, WA–and blackberry liqueur with a demi sec sparkling wine to lovely, and tasty, effect. It’s a drink worthy of a serious birthday celebration, or any old celebration. And, as some philosophers say it’s right to celebrate every day, that means you should have this drink every day. At least that makes sense to me.
1-1/2 ounces Skip Rock vodka
1-1/2 ounces blackberry liqueur
Chilled demi sec sparkling wine
Frozen blackberry, for garnish
Ice cube (if needed)
1. Add the vodka and the blackberry liqueur to a flute glass. Stir once or twice.
2. Fill the glass about three-quarters full with sparkling wine–carefully, though, so it doesn’t bubble over. Stir again, carefully, briefly, to introduce the vodka and the liqueur into the bubbly.
3. Garnish with the blackberry by dropping it into the glass. If your sparkling wine isn’t good and chilled, feel okay about adding one ice cube to keep this cool.
A Note: Not sure about making blackberry liqueur? Luckily, there’s a great recipe for one, called Always Bet on Blackberries, in Luscious Liqueurs. And yep, I’ve managed to link to three books in one post. Amazing.
The Man Behind the Evening's PlansA.J. Rathbun is a freelance food and entertainment writer, poet and author, a frequent guest on the Everyday Food program (Martha Stewart Living/Sirius satellite radio), and is a contributor to culinary & entertainment magazines such as Every Day with Rachael Ray, The Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Wine Enthusiast, and many others. Of course, there's so much more to it than that...Read More