The great IMG happened to take some time and explain to the community many, many wonderful things regarding the finer points of champagne. This fruitful exercise in the joys of bubbly, alcoholic things laid some base work down for continuing an examination of different fields of alcohol, and how they apply to you. As I continue to write installments in GINBANJO, my goal herein is to tackle an assortment of cocktail, drinking, and entertaining topics. You may ask, “Why, GrungeBanjo? There’s a million books out there on this!” And after I tell you to go fuck yourself, you don’t know what the goddamned hell you’re talking about, I’ll pat you on the back. Yes, there are books and guides and recipes and whatnot, but my goal is different than to just feed you information- I want to help give you the cojones to get creative with this. Booze can be like art or music, friends. Sometimes you just need a seed of an idea and a kick in the pants to go experiment. (It may be good to note that I may give you that pat on the back with a rusty shovel.)
Here’s Ginbanjo. Let’s go pickin’ and riffin’ on some booze.
So IMG, while espousing the joys of champagne, made some mentions (mainly in the comment sections) about champagne cocktails. I’m going to attempt to take you through some of the main ways to make delicious bubbly beverages, and also give you some points of reference so that you can start playing with your own variations.
First, why champagne in cocktails? Well, because champagne is fucking awesome. Let’s run through some unassailable points.
1) Champagne gives your cocktail fizz, brightness, generally some gentle flavors of fruit and mineral, and
2) Adds MORE booze to your cocktail. Gin & tonic? “Bah!” says champagne. You want more kick and flavor, and you don’t want to have to get up and make 30 drinks tonight, do you? You won’t. I almost feel compelled to caution you on your first champagne/hard alcohol voyage, except I’m sure you’ve ruined yourself at some shitty wedding where 12 whiskey/cokes and champagne with reception has made you too big a pussy to drink champagne for the last year. Otherwise, see you at the next meeting.
3) See the first two damn reasons.
Seriously. Summer is drawing into the twilight, barbeques will soon be covered and put away, and you won’t want to be so drunk as to snort champagne out your nose in October, when Mark Sanchez hits a cheerleader in the back of the head on a fade route. It’s beyond time to play with summer cocktails. Let’s get down to it.
The French 75
I’m starting with one of the simplest and most known champagne cocktails, because chances are, a) you’ve tried one and loved it, and b) it’s damned easy to make. Here’s a fairly standard recipe.
1tsp. fine sugar
1/2oz. lemon juice
5oz. dry champagne (Bruts, mainly, for those who haven’t read IMG’s post)
Then, basically, shake all this shit up in ice and pour it into a tall glass (or, I like using a brandy snifter).
This is your perfect example of the crossroads between a cocktail that is cloyingly sweet, refreshing, summery, and your early 1900s drink that would have you ready to commandeer a tank and fight all of Nazi Germany. Even the name gives it away; despite having the American-vilified French in the title, the name of this harmonious cocktail comes from a brute of a machine gun used primarily in WWI. It’ll get you drunk. Hell, it’ll make Rick Perry’s hair look real to the untrained eye. The damn things give Jim Leyland flashbacks.
So let’s make some French 75s. "But wait," you say. "I’m missing ___ ingredients." "What gin should I use," you might ask.
You are a grown man, and you are capable of exploring the wild wastes of your local liquor store and the virgin plains of your godforsaken palette to work this out on your own. I have faith in you. This isn’t a math class. It’s Painting 101. It doesn’t matter if you make yourself a Mona Lisa or you scribble phallic images across both forearms, paintbrush in your caveman teeth. We’re all gonna wind up drunk, and this will be fantastic.*
Now, let’s get some base work done before your party, or your night at home drinking. Get your glasses in the freezer. This is a cocktail you don’t often just knock back, so having cold glasses will help you enjoy your drink all the more. Also, when making long-drinking cocktails like the 75, I tend to make ahead of time very large ice cubes, like you’d put in your scotch. This keeps your flavorful drink vibrant for much longer. You’ll appreciate these tips.
Hopefully, you haven’t shut your browser down, cursed me for writing the War & Peace of making one fucking cocktail, and just threw all your shit together. I said “basically” for a reason, and that reason is you guys who haven’t made a French 75 before.
If you ARE new to this joyful thing, let’s assemble the drink slightly differently. Get your tall glass out. Get some big fucking cubes in it. Add half an ounce of gin. Now, to the champagne. Once you’ve added roughly half of the recipe’s allocated gin, give it a quick stir, and taste the bastard. What do you think, first off? Kinda dry? Right up your alley? Now, let’s add the other components. The trick to this is to do it carefully, and tasting your concoction all the time. This is the last moment of your evening that you will be sober; so let’s get the science out of the way so we can have a good time. Keep adding your ingredients in slow proportions, tasting, until you have found the proportions that suit you. And then, make a note of what they approximately are. This will free you to return to your liquor cabinet later with an excellent idea of how to recreate your personal masterpiece with ease.
I told you it was easy. You have to start somewhere.
So now that we’ve covered a fundamental champagne-engorged cocktail, I’ll continue next time with some more fun variants, and yes, they will be long articles. Cheers, Deadspin.
If you are absolutely new to any of these ingredients, or are scratching your head for some goddamned reason, here’s a few things I personally recommend that should be available countrywide.
I like using gins that are more floral or citrus-driven in 75s, so I strongly suggest Hendrick’s gin, and also a Scottish variety called The Botanist. These will give your cocktail a fun amount of complexity without overpowering your senses too much. I also use simple syrup oftentimes as a replacement for the sugar, which can be done simply by boiling 2 parts sugar to every one part of water. Thirdly, when in doubt, ask your sales rep at your local liquor store. Most of them are more than happy to give you pointers. If they aren’t, ask the bartender you trust. Or, ask me in the comments.*
** I can punt a football anywhere from ten feet to fifty yards, depending on how my knee is doing that day.