In December we went to Cocktails in the City, where we tried Bananalicious, the official Edinburgh Foody cocktail – a heady concoction of rum, whisky and banana foam – as well as a number of other cocktails and spirits. We watched whisky being flambeed with orange peel and spices to make a wonderful warm drink and had a master class on 100% agave tequila. We also tried mesquite, which, with its smokey agave flavour, was one of my favourite experiences of the night. The evening reminded me of how much I enjoy cocktails.
In particular, I am a great fan of a champagne cocktail. It doesn’t even have to be made with champagne for me to like it: a good brut cava, or any other white sparkling is a good substitute. It just has to sparkle and taste good. Sparkling cocktails are cheerful and celebratory. And a little goes a long way: a bottle of bubbly gives you six to eight cocktails. Well, six. Unless you have very small glasses.
Champagne cocktails are great for sipping languorously on a sunny Sunday afternoon but they also work with food, especially starters. It might not seem like an obvious pairing, but a Grand cocktail, with its sparkles and light orange flavour, goes very well with crab and lobster. And kir is forever changeable: the recipe gives tips for other liqueurs to use.
Here are my favourites. They have that in common that they are easy to make – most have only two ingredients – and taste good. Fast, easy and full of celebration. Yes!
Classic Champagne Cocktail
When pouring in the champagne, tilt the glass a lot and pour slowly! The sugar makes the bubbles go mad.
- Sugar lump (or, if you don’t have any, a teaspoon of caster sugar)
- Angostura bitters
- Dry champagne
Put a drop of bitters onto a lump of sugar. Put the sugar in the bottom of a champagne glass. Pour in about a table spoon of cognac. Top up with bubbles.
Kir is only royal if you use champagne. It is still tasty with anything dry, like a brut cava. You can experiment and use other liqueurs: blackberry is luscious, and if you have a sweet tooth, apricot or peach might catch your fancy (EF loves raspberry). Violet is, in my opinion, a bit much.
- Créme de cassis
A French kir is a very pale pink. Mine tend to be a little darker: I learned to drink white wine by sweetening it with créme de cassis. I now really like the créme de cassis. Start with a couple of drops, add more to taste.
Kir Cardinal with a Frothy Twist
Kir Cardinal is usually a soft red wine, boujolais noveau, for example, sweetened with créme de cassis. I like it with a fruity sparkling shiraz, like Jacob’s Creek.
- Créme de cassis
- Bubbly shiraz
Pour a small amount of créme de cassis into a champagne glass and top up with sparkling shiraz.
- 1 tablespoon Grand marnier
- Dry white sparlking wine
Add a table spoon of Grand Marnier into a champagne glass and top up with sparkling wine.
Last summer this appeared on George Street where it was called an Apérol Spritz because it was marketed by Apérol, now owned by Campari. I like Aperol because it’s a bitter aperitif, like Campari, but has half the alcohol, is a little sweeter and, most importantly, is vegetarian. It makes a perfectly decent negroni, although the colour isn’t as vibrant as when its made with Campari. Traditionally, a spritz in the mediterranean is a liqueur or bitter topped up with prosecco and finished off with a splash of soda water or sparkling mineral water.
I love this drink. It’s garishly orange and looks a little like Irn Bru, but it’s lovely.
- 1 Aperol
- 2 prosecco
- 1/2 soda water
Layer over ice and decorate with a slice of orange (if you have one handy).