There’s just something about drinking champagne, whether from a slender flute or a retro saucer coupe, that feels glamorous and devil-may-care, like you’re in an old black & white movie. Or an episode of Falcon Crest. Or on Jay-Z’s yacht. (Hey, everybody’s definition of glamour is different – me, I’ll stick with Cary Grant.)
The champagne cocktail has been around since at least the 1860s, though popular variations on the theme – the French 75, the kir royale, the Bellini – have popped up in the last century. This Remixed champagne cocktail is perfect for Valentine’s Day drinking: Instead of a bitters-soaked sugarcube, Florida’s February strawberries add sweetness (and a lovely pale-pink tinge) to the wine. To balance the sugar with pucker, I pair the berries with balsamic vinegar – like many of the best couples, strawberries and balsamic may not seem to have much in common, but they bring out the best in each other. So here it is: a cocktail just as sweet and sour as love itself. It takes a little work, but it’s worth it.
• 1 sugarcube
• 2 dashes bitters
• chilled champagne
• 1 strip lemon peel
Place sugarcube in champagne glass and drop two dashes of bitters onto the cube. Fill glass with champagne. Garnish with lemon twist.
• 1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries, leaves and cores removed
• 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 2 cups water
• chilled prosecco, cava or champagne
Place berries, vinegar, sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and cook at a low simmer until syrup thickens and reduces to a third of original volume, 20 minutes or so. Set aside to cool.
Strain the syrup through a mesh sieve, then pour a teaspoon of it into the bottom of a champagne glass. Fill with sparkling wine and gently stir. Garnish with a broken strip of lemon peel or a clean, bruised basil leaf.