Mostly, we think of champagne – or, for purposes of this piece, I should say sparkling wine, as a special occasion drink, to be popped to toast the best of circumstances.
If you’ve read our free book, How to be an Everyday Epicure, you’ll know that we’re all about celebrating the little things every day, so please join me and raise your glass to making
champagne sparkling wines part of your regular routine.
Our resident sommelier, Elizabeth, has suggested 12 sparklers to enjoy each and every month of the year. Today, I’m going to give you some fun ideas on how to put all that bubbly to good work.
Breakfast: It’s More Than for Mimosas
Ah, the venerable mimosa (champagne and orange juice): it’s the breakfast of champions. It’s also typically poorly made, with far too much juice-to-bubble ratio. The perfect mimosa is made with fresh orange juice and is three parts bubbly to one part juice. (Even the Le Cordon Bleu chefs agree with me, I just checked.) I prefer juice with bits, because the bits and the bubbly create a really nice texture to brighten up your morning.
But you don’t need the juice – champagne works just fine on its own for breakfast, especially a light and crisp varietal to combine with carb-heavy breakfasts like pancakes and sausages. Recently, I did a pairing of omelettes and Biltmore Estate’s Blanc De Blanc, which has a really nice, dry bite to it. Just perfect.
Don’t keep the bubbly just for the drinks – you can cook with it too. I’m so pleased that last autumn we decided to make some homemade jam to have over the winter. My first choice was, of course, a strawberry champagne jam that has tickled my taste buds all winter. For this recipe, you want to choose a very sweet champagne, to keep as much flavor as possible from boiling off – something like a Martini and Rossi Asti Spumanti works well.
Champagne also goes nicely in your pancake batter or french toast mix – just use your favorite recipe and add 1-2 cups of champagne (base this on texture, not flavor – you might want to swap out any water or extra liquids). A good trick is to combine your dry ingredients separately, while you whisk the champagne in with the eggs, and only then combine it all. Top with a few fresh berries, and a pinch of chocolate chips, and you’re set.
Splash Out at Lunch
Wine with lunch? Classy. Sparkling wine with lunch? Plum Deluxe. I actually have a very specific sparkler to recommend for lunch: vinho verde, which is a bubbler from Portugal. It has just the gentlest of fizz, and is a pinch sweet, which makes it a really refreshing perk for any lunch or picnic – it’s particularly nice on a warm day outdoors.
Because of its acidity, sparkling wine goes well with lots of lunch foods. Something I might suggest is perhaps a cheese board or charcuterie plate, with olives. Small plates mean you can try lots of different flavor combos, and I also think platters make for good lunch conversation.
Incidentally, one of my favorite cheeses to enjoy with sparkling wine is parmesan. Mostly, we think of parmesan as pulverized and put atop pasta, but that’s ruining it. It’s truly best enjoyed in small chunks. Pair with a lovely salad with your favorite ingredients, topped with a champagne vinaigrette (recipe). Delicieux.
Too busy for lunch? Then I hope you’ll make time for afternoon tea; nothing goes better with jam, cream, scones, and sandwiches than a well-chilled glass of champers. (And then, I suggest you order a siesta – quick.)
Happy Hour: Come Quickly, I’m Drinking the Stars!
You have no idea how much I LOVE champagne cocktails. It’s just how I roll. Our resident mixologist recently talked about some hot trends with champagne cocktails, but I’m a traditionalist: my favorite cocktail is a Kir Royale. That’s simply champagne with a splash of crème de cassis, a French blackcurrant liqueur that is a must for your home bar. The best brands are from France, specifically Dijon, so don’t buy anything else. It just needs a little bit – just enough to give it that lovely red color and a bit of flavor.
As far as the champagne to pair, consider picking up a brut Spanish cava – the brut means it’s on the dry side but not too dry, and Spanish cava has a really refreshing quality to it, perfect for that evening cocktail. If you’re serving at home, be sure the cava is well-chilled – the colder, the better.
American readers may not be quite so familiar, but I also love a stolly bolly cocktail, made famous by the British TV series Absolutely Fabulous. The name is a play on words of the two primary ingredients: Stolichnaya vodka (the stolly) and Bollinger champagne (the bolly). This is not for the weak of heart, but it certainly is a quick cool-down after a long day.
Closing thoughts on champagne cocktails: the simpler the better, otherwise you ruin it. Champagne pairs so well with a splash of liqueur – like elderflower, peach, or orange – so when in doubt, keep it simple.
Weighing the Options: Champagne with Dinner
In my research, traditionalists tell me that the best pairings for sparkling wine at dinner are veal and pork. (While writing, I literally just saw a tweet about “bubbles before swine,” and had to laugh.) Opposing the traditionalists, the best cooking-with-champagne recipes I have found are with chicken and pasta. On top of all this, I prefer red wine with my evening meal.
Here’s the thing you need to know when it comes to your dinner sparkling pairings: the best pairings are what YOU think tastes good, not what somebody tells you is ‘appropriate.’ That goes for all wines.
Now that I’ve freed you from the shackles of wine-pairing shame, I leave you with two favorite champagne dinner recipes, both chicken, both delicious. Pour a glass or two while cooking for optimal results.
- Champagne Mushroom Chicken – pair with some fusilli or farfalle.
- California Champagne Chicken – perfect on top of rice.
Last, but not least, is dessert – always save room for dessert! Take a look at my happy hour recommendations, which all work well as after-dinner digestives as well. A dry champagne is great if you need a palate cleanser, or a sweet sparkler, if you’re wanting something, er, sweet. Most restaurants don’t put sparklers on their dessert menu, but don’t let that put you off – order with confidence!
Sweet champagnes are also great for cooking with, because you can add sweetness and a bit of spark without adding tons of sugar.
Champagne cakes are popular, but may I suggest these lovely champagne cupcakes (bonus – champagne frosting, too!). Even if you don’t like cooking, these are fun to make.
But, embrace your inner Italian for dessert, with a bowl of granita. This is a frozen dessert from Sicily, so why not make some with some classic Italian prosecco? (By the way, there are American wineries making fantastic Italian prosecco.) What’s also nice about granita, is you don’t need an ice cream machine or anything to make it.
Here’s to more bubbly in your day. You deserve it.