Making champagne cocktails to celebrate the end of the semester

Cocktails with Chris

Chris Markham, Director of Print

To celebrate the end of classes, the upcoming end of the school year and the imminent commencement for my fellow graduates, I thought it would be appropriate to share some recipes for champagne cocktails. There’s no alcohol out there as synonymous with celebrations as champagne, but plain champagne isn’t for everyone. That’s why we have champagne cocktails. 

Of course, when I say champagne, I mean any kind of sparkling wine, because there is a difference between champagne and sparkling wine. Sparkling wine is just carbonated wine while champagne is a specific type of sparkling wine that is made a certain way in the Champagne region of France. Both are perfectly appropriate for any and all kinds of celebrations, so get whatever your heart desires. That being said, throughout this article, I’ll be using the term champagne for simplicity’s sake. Whichever one you use, make sure you’re aware of how sweet it is. Champagnes and sparkling wines have a broad range of sweetness levels, so if it’s a sweeter variant, you may need to decrease the amount of simple syrup you put in your drinks. 

My philosophy behind champagne cocktails is that they should mask the flavor of the champagne so that people can continue drinking it and feel fancy. All of these cocktails do that to different extents, so hopefully champagne lovers and champagne haters alike will be able to find drinks they enjoy here. 

The Champagne Cocktail

Our first champagne cocktail is called, well, the champagne cocktail, an appropriate start. A champagne cocktail is just a way to add a bit of sweetness and flavor to champagne by adding some sugar and Angostura bitters. Bitters are essentially super concentrated flavors that you can add to cocktails in small amounts. While they’re generally optional in most cocktails, they’re necessary for this drink. Without using Angostura bitters, you’re just sweetening your champagne with sugar. 

Traditionally, this drink calls for a sugar cube, but you can easily use simple syrup. 

Ingredients:

1 sugar cube or 1/4 ounce simple syrup*

2 dashes Angostura bitters

4 ounces champagne

Cherry for garnish (optional)

Steps:

  1. Add all ingredients except champagne into glass
  2. Top with champagne  
  3. Enjoy responsibly 

*To make simple syrup, combine sugar and water into a pot and heat up until the sugar is dissolved. The standard ratio in most recipes is one part sugar to one part water, which will last about four weeks in the refrigerator. You can also make what’s called a rich simple syrup by using two parts sugar to one part water, which will last for about six months in the refrigerator. I like to use this 2:1 rich syrup.

Mimosa (and Apple-Mosa)

The next two that I want to describe are the Mimosa and something I call the apple-mosa. The Mimosa is the classic brunch cocktail, with equal amounts of champagne and orange juice. Meanwhile, the apple-mosa is a drink I came up with that is just the same thing but with apple juice instead of orange juice, for those of us intellectuals who have superior fruit taste. 

Mimosa Ingredients:

2 ounces orange juice

2 ounces champagne

Cherry for garnish (optional)

Apple-Mosa Ingredients:

2 ounces apple juice

2 ounces champagne

Cherry for garnish (optional)

Steps:

  1. Add juice into glass
  2. Top with champagne
  3. Enjoy responsibly

French 75

Now we’re going to do a champagne cocktail that has hard liquor in it: the French 75. The drink was named after the French 75 artillery gun, as consuming it supposedly feels like you’re getting hit by one. The French 75 can be made with either brandy or gin, though it’s more commonly made with gin today. However, if you want to live up to the name and feel extra French, try using cognac, a type of French brandy. Any of them work. 

Whether you’re using gin or brandy when making a French 75, the drink is a shaken one. However, when you’re working with a carbonated ingredient like champagne, it should never be shaken with the other ingredients. Doing so can make your cocktail shaker explode, causing the drink to get everywhere, and nobody wants that. So please, for your sake and the sake of anyone you’re making drinks for, don’t add champagne until after you’ve shaken the rest of the cocktail.  

Ingredients: 

1 ounce gin or brandy 

1/2 ounce lemon juice 

1/2 ounce simple syrup

2 ounces champagne

Steps:

  1. Add all ingredients except champagne into cocktail shaker filled with ice**
  2. Shake until sufficiently chilled
  3. Strain the drink into glass
  4. Top with champagne 
  5. Enjoy responsibly 

**If you don’t have a cocktail shaker available, you can use a protein shaker bottle, a Mason jar or a thermos that gets a really tight seal.

Old Cuban

The Old Cuban is one of the many variations on the French 75. It’s sort of a cross between a French 75 and a mojito, and was created by mixologist Audrey Saunders in 2001. Just like when you make a mojito, do everything in your power to acquire actual mint leaves to use in an Old Cuban. In the unfortunate event that you don’t have mint leaves, try replacing them with mint syrup instead.

Ingredients:

6 to 8 mint leaves

1 1/2 ounces aged rum 

3/4 ounces lime juice 

1 ounce simple syrup

2 dashes Angostura bitters

2 ounces champagne

Steps:

  1. Add all ingredients except champagne into cocktail shaker filled with ice
  2. Muddle the mint in the tin
  3. Shake until sufficiently chilled
  4. Strain the drink into glass
  5. Top with champagne 
  6. Enjoy responsibly 

Disaronno Wears Cavalli Sour

The Disaronno Wears Cavalli Sour was created by Disaronno to celebrate their partnership with the Italian clothing company Cavalli. Disaronno is a brand of amaretto, an Italian almond-flavored liqueur, but you can use whatever brand of amaretto you want. If I’m making something with amaretto, I’m using either Disaronno or Lazzaroni amaretto, but I’ve never been able to find a bottle of Lazzaroni in Ohio so I’m forced to use Disaronno. That being said, both are equally satisfying. 

The coolest thing about this drink is that after you’re done making it, you add Angostura bitters on top of the drink, and they just sit there floating on top of the other liquid, creating a nice red layer.

Ingredients: 

1 1/2 ounces amaretto 

1 ounce lemon juice 

1/4 ounce simple syrup

10 dashes Angostura bitters 

2 ounces champagne

Steps:

  1. Add all ingredients except champagne and Angostura bitters into cocktail shaker filled with ice
  2. Shake until sufficiently chilled
  3. Strain the drink into glass
  4. Top with champagne 
  5. Add 10 dashes of Angostura bitters to the top of the cocktail 
  6. Enjoy responsibly 

Ritz Fizz

The Ritz Fizz was the signature cocktail of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Boston. Created in 1934, shortly after prohibition ended in the U.S. in 1933, this bright, light and refreshing drink is a perfect addition to your arsenal of champagne cocktails. Though the Ritz Fizz is usually made right in the glass, I think it benefits from shaking the ingredients with ice before you add the champagne. 

Ingredients:

1/2 ounce blue curacao 

1/2 ounce amaretto

1/2 ounce lemon juice 

3 ounces champagne

Steps:

  1. Add all ingredients except champagne into cocktail shaker filled with ice
  2. Shake until sufficiently chilled
  3. Strain the drink into glass
  4. Top with champagne 
  5. Enjoy responsibly

Italian Pirate Sparkler

Next is a drink that I have named the Italian pirate sparkler, which is my own variation on a French 75. Rum and amaretto are my two favorite alcohols, and they work really well together, so I thought they would work well with champagne. As it turns out, they do. You can use any rum, be it white, aged or spiced, though personally, I think it’s best with an aged rum. 

Ingredients:

1/2 ounce rum 

1 1/2 ounces amaretto

3/4 ounce lemon juice 

1/4 ounce simple syrup

2 ounces champagne

Steps:

  1. Add all ingredients except champagne into cocktail shaker filled with ice
  2. Shake until sufficiently chilled
  3. Strain the drink into glass
  4. Top with champagne 
  5. Enjoy responsibly

Midnight Kiss

I don’t know this for a fact, but just judging by its name, I’m guessing that this drink was created to evoke the tradition of kissing someone at midnight on New Year’s Eve. But I think you can make this drink for any sort of celebration that involves champagne where you’d want to kiss a consenting individual who’s vaccinated.

Ingredients: 

3/4 ounce vodka 

1/4 ounce blue curacao

4 ounces champagne

Steps:

  1. Add all ingredients except champagne into glass
  2. Top with champagne 
  3. Enjoy responsibly

Beautiful Stranger

This drink was created by bartender Erick Castro, but what makes it so special is that it contains tequila, a rarity among champagne cocktails. When making this cocktail, it’s important to give special consideration to the ingredient that gives the drink it’s pretty red color: the grenadine. When you think of grenadine, you may think of Rose’s grenadine, the bright red, overly sweet, vaguely cherry-flavored syrup packed full of high fructose corn syrup and artificial coloring. But a lot of higher-end bartenders these days turn their noses up at Rose’s grenadine in favor of traditional grenadine, which is actually made from actual pomegranate juice. You can use either one in this drink, but for my taste, a traditional pomegranate-flavored grenadine yields a tastier, brighter and more complex drink.

Ingredients: 

1 1/2 ounces tequila 

3/4 ounce lemon juice 

3/4 ounce grenadine

1 ounce champagne

Steps:

  1. Add all ingredients except champagne into cocktail shaker filled with ice
  2. Shake until sufficiently chilled
  3. Strain the drink into glass
  4. Top with champagne 
  5. Enjoy responsibly

Champagne Shirley Temple

This drink is a grown-up take on the Shirley Temple. In case you’ve forgotten your favorite drink from back when you were six years old, the Shirley Temple is grenadine in either Sprite or ginger ale. The Champagne Shirley Temple simply replaces the soda with champagne. Just a little bit of grenadine in the bottom of your glass with champagne poured on top will give you a simple, sweet and visually pleasing cocktail to drink while you celebrate the end of the school year. 

Ingredients: 

1/2 ounce grenadine 

4 ounces champagne

Cherry for garnish (optional)

Steps:

  1. Add all ingredients except champagne into glass
  2. Top with champagne 
  3. Enjoy responsibly

Death in the Afternoon

Famous alcoholic author Ernest Hemingway created the “Death in the Afternoon” cocktail, naming it after his novel of the same name. It’s a simple yet potent combination of absinthe and champagne. Absinthe, known as the green fairy, has a long and strange history with a lot of myths surrounding it. The biggest myth is that drinking absinthe will make you go insane, which is simply not true. Though it has a much higher alcohol content than other types of hard liquor, it has no special psychoactive properties that make it different from any other alcohol. Absinthe is indeed intoxicating, but it isn’t maddening. That being said, one should be mindful of the strength of their absinthe when partaking in the green fairy, as it often consists of more than 60% alcohol by volume—much higher than the standard 40% of most hard liquors like vodka or whiskey.

Hemingway was far from the only famous writer who drank absinthe, as it was extremely popular among artists of all kinds. Vincent van Gogh, Charles Baudelaire, Pablo Picasso, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and Edgar Allan Poe, among others, were all known to have enjoyed absinthe. As such, those rare humanities majors among us Case Western Reserve University students may especially enjoy this cocktail for the long tradition that it represents. 

Ingredients:

1 ounce absinthe

1/4 ounce simple syrup (optional)

4 ounces champagne

Steps:

  1. Add absinthe (and simple syrup) into glass
  2. Top with champagne 
  3. Enjoy responsibly