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For many sparkling cocktails, bubbly adds to the drink’s festive and buoyant nature, while the flavour comes from the other ingredients. In most instances, you don’t need to splurge on an expensive bottle to make a delicious mixed drink.
The taste and aroma of a mimosa or bellini is dictated by the fruit juice or purée used, not the wine. Likewise, Aperol’s bitter orange character covers up the nuances of any top-quality fizz in a Spritz. In these instances, a well-made and affordably priced cava or prosecco is my go-to when it comes to mixing cocktails.
I enjoy the toasty complexity and richness of Segura Viudas Brut Reserva for a mimosa – cava goes into the glass first so the juice mixes more effectively, without having to stir the drink (and risk having it go flat) – and the crisp and pleasing character of La Marca or Fiol proseccos for a bellini.
For royale cocktails, which call for one ounce of liqueur topped with sparkling wine, you can look to the range of bottled fermented bubblies produced all around the world: great value crémants from France, including Crémant de Bourgogne or Crémant de Limoux, or bottles made in Canada, California or South Africa. A solid option is the Chandon Blanc de Pinot Noir Sparkling from California.
I’ll look to top-quality Champagne when sparkling wine is the cocktail’s main ingredient. Consider the French 75 recipe, which combines dry gin, lemon juice and simple syrup with sparkling wine. There’s three ounces of sparkling wine to one ounce gin and ¾ ounces of lemon juice and simple syrup. An alternate version of this classic cocktail uses brandy instead of gin, which I enjoy in the winter, especially around the holidays. In warmer months, my default is gin.
You could use cava or bubbly from California and have an enjoyably crisp, citrusy and fizzy French 75 cocktail, but I think brut champagne adds more roundness and creamy character to the drink. I’ve enjoyed examples made with the complex and rich character of Drappier Brut Nature Pinot Noir Champagne as well as the traditional house styles from Mumm and Veuve Clicquot.