In cocktail culture, the term “royale” often indicates the presence of Champagne. In Dijon, the local tradition of adding creme de cassis to Aligoté wine is called a "kir" — to upgrade your wine to Champagne makes it a “Kir Royale.”
Plenty of cocktails, particularly sours, also benefit from this treatment, and as we approach Valentine's Day we can think of no better way to make your partner feel like royalty. Trade up rose petals and chocolates for one of these delicious and delicate drinks as a way of making a yearly appreciation into something truly special!
Classic French 75 - (Image by NYT Cooking)
Named for the first modern artillery piece, the 75mm featured a rifled barrel and a novel pneumatic recoil system and was rightly feared as a dangerous instrument. The drink itself is more salubrious — but just as potent. The base spirit is either gin or Cognac; each one has its fierce adherents, but both are delicious. The gin version appeared first, mixed up at Harry's New York Bar in 1920s Paris; this humble scribe first encountered the Cognac version in a hotel bar in Philadelphia on Valentine's Day, where the barman said he learned the variation working in Moscow in the wild ‘90s. Much as in love, it's less about being right than being good, so prepare it how you prefer.
1.5oz London Dry gin or cognac
.75oz lemon juice
.75oz simple syrup
~6oz sparkling wine (a cremant or cava works perfectly)
Lemon twist for garnish
Directions: Combine the first three ingredients in a shaker and shake until just chilled — the Champagne will take care of the dilution. Strain into a coupe or champagne flute as desired and top with the sparkling wine. Garnish with the expressed lemon twist and serve with a smile.
Death in the Afternoon
Death in the Afternoon - (Image by A Couple Cooks)
While Ernest Hemingway famously loved Paris between the wars, this concoction is named after his collection of bullfighting articles written in Spain in the late ‘20s. Unlike the Papa Double Daiquiri, we can’t prove that Hem actually knocked any of these back — but we promise it has just as much heart as any bullfighter. When it comes to selecting your absinthe, the wormwood-derived version has been legal to import to the US since 2007, so we recommend going with a classic Swiss formulation — or one from your favorite American craft distillery.
.75oz Absinthe Vert
Lemon twist for garnish
Directions: Pour the cava into a coupe or champagne flute as desired and stir in the absinthe. Express and discard the lemon twist before serving.
Improved Champagne Cocktail
Improved Champagne Cocktail - (Image by Taste of Home)
The earliest of recipes in this collection (from Jerry Thomas’s own How to Mix Drinks), the Improved Cocktail refers to one that adds maraschino or curaçao to an old-fashioned cocktail. To lighten things up a bit, we’ll use sparkling wine in place of a distilled spirit, making this a perfect aperitif. Since the sparkling will will already be chilled, preparation is quick and easy, allowing you to easily segue to the main event (or dinner).
1 bar spoon demerara syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 bar spoon Maraschino liqueur (the proper Dalmatian sour cherry stuff, not the bleached, red #2 type)
~6oz Sparkling Wine, well chilled
Orange twist for garnishDirections: Combine the first three ingredients in a Collins glass. Pour in the sparkling wine and stir to combine. Express the orange twist over the drink and drop it into the glass.