The original Champagne cocktail can be traced back to 1862, according to master mixologist and cocktail celebrity Dale DeGroff.
He notes in his essential resource, “The Craft of the Cocktail,” that the bubbly-based drink first appeared in Jerry Thomas’ own essential resource, “How to Mix Drinks,” or possibly “The Bon Vivant’s Companion.”
That original concoction simply combined champagne with a sugar cube that had been soaked in Angostura bitters. The cube was then placed at the bottom of a glass that was slowly filled with Champagne. A lemon peel garnish added a hint of acidity.
The sky’s the limit now. The addition of Champagne, prosecco, cava or sparkling wine into drinks of all kind has become a bartender’s staple ever since that first spark of creativity. The sparklers provide a refreshing punch to a long list of essential aperitifs whose purpose is, after all, to awaken the taste buds for food.
Sparkling wine cocktails often find themselves onto brunch menus for the same reason, becoming the perfect quencher with orange or grapefruit juice or as the basis of a Bellini, where fresh peach puree comes to life.
These drinks are easy enough to make on one’s own. For further inspiration, we suggest the following local places making great sparkling wine cocktails of their own.
Where to go
Stop by Barndiva (231 Center St., Healdsburg, barndiva.com) for its “Bitches Of The Seizième,” best name ever for a cocktail. It’s a Champagne cocktail made with bubbles, orange peel brandy, coriander and Creole bitters.
Campo Fina (330 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, campofina.com) makes an incomparable Campari Spritz, with Campari, prosecco, limoncello and soda. The sweetness and acidity of the prosecco are able to balance out Campari’s natural bitterness. Bright red in color and made from a closely guarded secret recipe that combines a mixture of infused herbs, aromatic plants and fruit in alcohol and water, Campari is also the basis of two influential cocktails, the Americano and the Negroni.
Find your Bliss at El Dorado Kitchen (405 First St. West, Sonoma, eldoradosonoma.com), the name of one of its signature cocktails made from grapefruit vodka, mandarin liqueur, lemon and prosecco. Or go for the Treuse or Dare, a delectable combination of prosecco with chartreuse, elderflower, mint, lime and rhubarb bitters. The bar will also kindly make two alcohol-free spritzers, the Basil Julep with muddled basil, ginger, lemon and sparkling water; and the Sonoma Spritzer, with refreshing cucumber, lemongrass, lime and rosemary added to offset the sweetness of Sprite.
At The Girl & The Fig (110 West Spain St., Sonoma, thegirlandthefig.com) choose between the Fig Royale blend of sparkling wine and house-made fig liqueur or go for the quintessential aperitif, the Kir Royale, which combines sparkling wine with Framboise. An Aperol Spritzer, which adds soda and a slice of orange to Aperol and sparkling wine, is also an option, or go fruity with a Blackberry Fizz, a mixture of sparkling wine, vodka, St. Germain, blackberry shrub and mint.
Downtown Petaluma’s Risibisi Italian Cuisine and Wine Bar (154 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, risibisirestaurant.com) is not only a much-heralded place for pasta and Italian wines, it makes a mean Bellini Veneziano by blending prosecco with fresh white-peach puree. It will also put together a Champagne Mojito, should you prefer, adding fresh mint and lime to prosecco.
Go to Spoonbar (219 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, spoonbar.com) for its Carbonated Corpse Reviver, a blend of rye, absinthe, Cocchi Americano and cointreau. It’s one of their five favorite cocktails, originally conceived by bartender Cappy Sorentino. Cocchi Americano, which gives it its fizz, is an Italian aperitif wine based on Moscato di Asti that’s then fortified and flavored with botanicals and a type of bark akin to quinine, which gives it a bitter note. The restaurant is celebrating five years of cocktails with a highlight of five of its favorites over the years, paired with bar bites, $5 each from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday through the rest of July.
Stark’s Steak and Seafood (521 Adams St., Santa Rosa, starkrestaurants.com) not only offers one of the best happy hours in the region, its vintage cocktail list includes an Aperol Spritz, made from Aperol and Da Luca Prosecco.
Underwood Bar & Bistro (9113 Graton Rd., Graton, underwoodgraton.com) is a nice place to sit outside. Be sure to consider either the Champagne Brandy Cocktail, made from dry Champagne, cognac, bitters, brown sugar and lemon served in a Champagne flute; or the Graton 75, which shakes together gin, cointreau and lemon juice before adding a top layer of prosecco. The Elderflower Gin Rickey – gin, St. Germain, lemon and prosecco – is equally hard to pass up.
Virginie Boone is a freelance wine writer based in Sonoma County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @vboone.