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Nice Work, Emily. You 'Discovered' the Champagne Cocktail...
First the Aperol Spritz, then the Negroni Sbagliato, and now the Kir Royale. It's the sparkling cocktail's world and we're just living in it. Here are a few new ones for your repertoire.
Culture moves at the speed of light, especially when it comes to drinks. It seems like yesterday when the Negroni Sbagliato (“with prosecco”) was being mispronounced into the popular imagination. But that was so October. By Thanksgiving, the Aperol Spritz was taking its star turn, being drunk poolside by by the beautiful people at The White Lotus resort in Sicily.
Fast forward a few weeks later to the latest season of Netflix’s Emily in Paris (don’t pretend you don’t watch it, too). In episode four, Emily Cooper “discovers” the classic French sparkling cocktail, Kir Royale. This is the same episode in which Emily—who we’re to believe is a social-media expert—apparently has also just “discovered” Instagram Reels. A few moments later, Emily explains that Kir Royale is “creme de cassis and Champagne” to a Champagne producer—who scoffs, “Of course, I know what a Kir Royale is.” Long story short, she convinces them to bring out a Kir Royale as a canned cocktail, which she points out is “all the rage among 18 to 35s.” Emily saves the day again. What a time to be alive!
A younger version of me would lash out at these sorts of cocktail fads. But honestly, why? Maybe it’s just because I’m older, but I’m sort of here for the rise of the sparkling wine cocktail. I like a good Kir Royale, as well as an Aperol Spritz or a Negroni Sbagliato just as much as the next guy. In fact, the history of the Kir Royale is pretty fascinating, as I mention in my article for Taste of Home:
The cocktail is named for Canon Félix Kir, a French priest who was a hero in the French Resistance during the Second World War…when the Nazis invaded Burgundy, they stole much of the region’s wines. Kir mixed up a local dry white wine, aligoté, along with the creme de cassis, another local specialty. The result looked almost like the famed Burgundian red wines. That original cocktail, with white wine, was named after Kir. After the war, Kir became mayor of the Burgundian town Dijon from 1945 to 1968 and continued to promote his namesake cocktail to cover up the flaws of inferior white wines. The Kir cocktail, however, continued to evolve. At some point in the 20th century, an enterprising bartender had the bright idea to use sparkling wine instead of aligoté. This bubbly version of the drink was dubbed the Kir Royale.
Of course, I have my own favorites that I prefer to any of the aforementioned sparkling wine cocktails. As far as classics go, I prefer a French 75, the mix of gin, lemon, simple syrup, and Champagne. I also like my French 75 with Cognac instead of gin.
My only tiny issue with drinks like the Kir Royale, Aperol Spritz, and the Negroni Sbagliato—and it’s probably one of cocktail geekiness—is that they’re built in the glass. You just pour everything in and maybe or maybe not give a stir. Voila! The ease and convenience of this is obvious. But sparkling wine cocktails, especially ones that call for liqueurs and/or fruit juices, always benefit from shaking over ice before adding the sparkling wine element. In most cases, I use cava when I make sparkling cocktails, though if you want to spend the coin on Champagne, by all means.
Below, I’ve included a few more ideas, variations on the popular cocktails of the day. My Ostend Fizz Royale is basically a Kir Royale, but with the addition of the cherry-brandy kirsch, which kicks things up a notch.
The Negroni Pompelmo is a grapefruit variation on the Negroni Sbagliato. It puts the gin back in, and replaces the vermouth with grapefruit juice, which always pairs well with Campari. Yes, another in a long line of Negroni variations.
Finally, the Purple Fizz Royale is a twist on a Sloe Gin Fizz, that replaces the lemon with grapefruit. It becomes “royale” by the addition of sparkling wine.
All three cocktails are tasty. They’re also pretty and ready for their product placement. Netflix, call me!
Sparkling Wine Cocktails Beyond the Kir Royale, the Negroni Sbagliatio, and the Aperol Spritz
Note: All of these can be served in a champagne flute or ice-filled highball glass. These are simple recipes, but resist the temptation to just pour all ingredients directly into the glass to build the drink. Shaking the spirits and/or juices together with ice first will always create a more appealing drink.
Ostend Fizz Royale
This is essentially a kir royale with the addition of kirsch (aka kirschwasser) to kick things up a notch. It’s historic variation, though it’s hard to say why it’s named after the city of Ostend in Belgium, considering it calls for an Alpine cherry brandy and a black currant liqueur from Dijon. The original Ostend Fizz calls for club soda, but this “Royale” version calls for sparkling wine.
1 ounce kirsch
1 ounce creme de cassis
Chilled sparkling wine
Fill a shaker with ice. Add the kirsch and creme de cassis. Shake well, then strain into champagne flute (or ice-filled highball glass). Top with about 3 ounces of sparkling wine.
The Negroni Sbalgiato is the sparkling Negroni variation that’s currently trending. This version keeps the Sbagliato’s sparkle, but puts the gin back in. Instead, the vermouth is replaced with grapefruit juice.
1 ounce gin
3/4 ounce Campari
3/4 ounce grapefruit juice, fresh-squeezed
Chilled sparkling wine
Fill a shaker with ice. Add the gin, Campari, and grapefruit juice. Shake well, then strain into champagne flute (or ice-filled highball glass). Top with about 3 ounces of sparkling wine.
Purple Fizz Royale
This is either a French 75 that calls for sloe gin and grapefruit instead of gin and lemon. Or it’s a variation on a sloe gin fizz that calls for grapefruit instead of lemon and sparkling wine instead of club soda. Either way it’s delicious.
2 ounces sloe gin
1 ounces grapefruit juice, fresh-squeezed
Chilled sparkling wine
Fill a shaker with ice. Add the sloe gin and grapefruit juice. Shake well, then strain into champagne flute (or ice-filled highball glass). Top with about 3 ounces of sparkling wine.