Cockiness is abetted by a full bottle of champagne in the fridge. Fortune must be smiling if you haven’t drained your complete stock of fizzy decadence. Even better if the champagne was a gift from a thoughtful friend. You’re awash in life’s great pleasures; stoke the boilers and full steam ahead!
In this spirit, I wasted a Sunday afternoon and 750 ml of New Mexico’s respectable champagne knockoff, Gruet Brut — produced some 70 miles north of the border by the Gruet family of France. Straight out of the bottle it’s dry, yeasty but bright with plenty of fine bubbles, and not overtly reminiscent of any particular fruit. It really didn’t need to be improved upon.
But as I said, hubris was in the air, and my thoughts turned to a champagne cocktail I’d had in California this summer. Infused with ginger and lemongrass, it was refreshing like the Lindy Hop — its aura cast eight-count trouble on everything it touched. What with the ripples from the subprime bubble burst still spreading, I’ve been feeling a little roaring ’20s, so it seemed a good time to try to recreate the magic with the materials on hand: the afore-described sparkling wine, fresh ginger root, pear, and lemon mist thyme.
While the chemistry started smashingly, inexperience quickly gained the upper hand. I drained a glassful to make room for the julienned ginger in the bottle, which I planned to recap with a handy champagne seal (works like a gem for 24 hours) and steep on ice for a couple of hours. But the ginger provoked a spectacular eruption the moment it made its way down the neck. Bubbles flowed onto the countertop and floor; I tried to slurp them up as quickly as they emerged, simultaneously stuffing in more ginger while suspending the entire operation over a bowl to catch the runoff.
Some indeterminate, fuzzy, delicious amount of time later, there was, incredibly, still a lot of wine in the bottle. On went the cap. Off I went to snip thyme, slice pears, and, one would think, reconsider the whole enterprise. But I was already in too deep (approximately 300 ml, in fact).
Before you shake your head and cluck your (sober) tongue, consider that the ginger-stuffed champagne had been sitting quietly in the fridge for some 190 minutes before I returned with ingredients in hand. Would you really have anticipated that removing the seal would provoke Mt. St. Helen’s 1980 all over again?
More slurping. More mopping. Stupendously, still more sparkling wine.
So into the glasses it went, on top of gently crushed thyme and slices of fresh pear. The cocktails were lovely to look at and intriguing to sip, although the ginger and herb combined to create a fresh-scrubbed aroma that wasn’t entirely welcome in a drink. The lesson: Don’t fix what ain’t broke. But if you do happen to find yourself possessed of both a bottle of bubbly and a meddlesome soul, I can recommend this tried-and-true Champagne Cocktail from Mr. Boston’s post-Prohibition reintroduction to the art of mixing.
Adapted from the Old Mr. Boston Deluxe Official Bartender Guide
1 cube of ice
1 dash bitters
1 lump of sugar
1 piece orange peel
1 piece lemon peel
Dash the bitters on the sugar cube and place in a champagne glass. Fill with champagne and add twists of lemon and orange. Throw the ice cube in the sink.