‘Tis the Season to Sparkle

It’s no bubble: Champagne’s stocks are on the rise.

Where there were once only two options—the real deal or total plonk—we now have a host of excellent “middle-ground” alternatives, many of which are probably just as good as bona fide French Champagne. And a whole lot cheaper. 

That’s happy news for those of us who love the Champagne life. But it can be a bit daunting for those who, faced with a special occasion or a holiday party, have a policy of just splurging on the fancy French stuff.  For them, here’s the low-down on how to save a little cash without losing any of the fizz:

Cava is made pretty much the same way they make champagne, except this is made in Spain. As such, it can be hard to distinguish a well-made, dry cava from some French products. As an added bonus, these brands tend to have a high-acidity level and a robust bubble, so they work nicely in champagne cocktails. Pro Tip: Don’t buy the cheapest cava you can find. Instead, trade up to a mid-shelf brand to avoid overly sweet bubbly.

Prosecco is Italy’s best-known contribution to the world of fizz. Made with glera grapes, it tends to have a distinct, off-dry, fruity taste. Most brands wouldn’t pass for champagne, but its loyal fans don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. Pro Tip: If you can find a label from the Asolo region, it’s likely of a higher quality than some other brands.

Crémant: Most of the crémant we get in Canada hails from Alsace, Loire or Bordeaux, but you might run across something made in one of the five other regions allowed to produce this creamy sparkling wine. Pro tip: Those looking for something close to Champagne should stick to the Loire region, since it’s grown in the same chalky soil that gives Champagne its famous minerality.

Canada: Although the country isn’t known for any one particular grape or style, there are some excellent expressions coming out of both the Okanagan and Niagara regions—the latter of which is beginning to make a name for itself with pink sparklers. Nova Scotia sparkling wine, however, is being touted as the next big thing. Pro tip: Keep an eye out for Benjamin Bridge from Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia. It’s a rising star.   

Champagne cocktails

What’s better than champagne? Champagne cocktails! These tasty treats are easy to make and perfect for celebrations from holiday office parties right on through to New Year’s Eve.

Maestro Dobel Diamante Demure

1½ oz Maestro Dobel Tequila

½ oz fresh grapefruit juice

3 dashes peach bitters

½ tsp rose water

½ tsp agave syrup

4 oz sparkling wine*

Add everything except the sparkling wine to an ice-filled shaker, then shake and strain into champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine and garnish with a grapefruit twist.

Sparkling Mojito 

1½ oz Flor de Caña Blanco Reserva 7-year-old rum

1 tsp simple syrup

10 fresh mint leaves

¼ oz lime juice

5 lime wheels

4 oz sparkling wine*

In a tall glass, muddle the mint leaves and simple syrup, then add crushed ice, rum and lime juice. Drop in lime wheels and add sparkling wine Stir and garnish with additional mint sprigs.

Clementine Mimosa

1 oz Iceberg vodka

2½ oz fresh clementine juice

2½ oz sparkling wine*

Build all ingredients in a champagne flute and garnish with an orange slice.

Hendrick’s Forenoon Fizz

1 tsp orange marmalade

1½ oz Hendrick’s gin

¼ oz Cointreau

½ oz fresh lemon juice

4 oz sparkling wine*

Combine gin, marmalade, lemon and Cointreau in a cocktail shaker, stirring to dissolve marmalade completely. Add ice and shake briskly. Strain into flute and top with bubbly. Garnish with triangle of toast.

*Any dry sparkling wine should work in these recipes. Many bartenders use cava as their go-to sparkling wine for champagne cocktails, since it really pops, isn’t too sweet and is pretty reasonably priced.

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