After the original “cocktail” (alcohol, sugar, water, bitters), there was the Champagne Cocktail, which cocktail historian David Wondrich refers to as the “first evolved cocktail.” Created sometime in the early to mid 1800s, the cocktail was particularly popular along the West Coast and with entertainers (eventually earning the nickname “chorus girl’s milk”). But, as popular and ubiquitous as the Champagne Cocktail was and is, it still had some detractors. David A. Embury—author of The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (1948)—once said the Champagne Cocktail “is a decidedly inferior drink, and no true Champagne lover would ever commit the sacrilege of polluting a real vintage Champagne by dunking even plain sugar, much less bitters in it." We respectfully disagree with Mr. Embury’s overall condemnation of the cocktail, but we do concur with his opinion that a good vintage Champagne should never be used (opt for something non-vintage instead or a dry domestic sparkling wine).
- Add the sugar cube to the bottom of a Champagne flute.
- Dash Angostura bitters on top of the sugar cube.
- Top with Champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.
Mix it Up
Don’t feel limited by the cocktail’s name; you can substitute a domestic dry sparkling wine, Cava or Prosecco for the typically pricier Champagne. And while the original recipe calls for Angostura bitters, the cocktail also works well with orange or lavender bitters. If you’re looking for more ways to change up this dead simple, classic recipe we have a few thoughts on that too, from alternative citruses to under-utilized sweeteners.
After being named bar manager of the Old Seelbach Bar in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1995, Adam Seger supposedly made a discovery: a long-lost recipe for the Seelbach Cocktail, an appealing blend of bourbon, orange liqueur, bitters and sparkling wine that dated back to the bar’s pre-Prohibition days. His story of finding the recipe quickly spre...