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Six lovely bubbly-based cocktails

Our favorite bubbly-based cocktail? The classic French 75.
Our favorite bubbly-based cocktail? The classic French 75.

If you're anything like us, then at times your veins may seem to be pumping pure bubbly. But if you're not, then we reckon there are at least two guaranteed occasions upon which you find yourself consuming drinks made with sparkling wine: Sunday brunch and New Year's Eve.

It's almost as if under those circumstances one will look at you cross-eyed for imbibing a beverage that's relegated by many to special occasion status (um, if brunch qualifies as "special"). But since we're still just under 120 days away from singing "Auld Lang Syne," we thought we'd let you in on a little secret: Champagne makes for some damn tasty libations, the likes of which you've probably never even heard of. And let's face it -- even as much as we worship at the altar of all things bubbly, sometimes what's called for after a rough week at the office is a cocktail, plain and simple. With these six concoctions, we can have the best of both worlds -- and you can, too.

Before we dive into these bubbly-based bevvies, let's pause for a minute to talk a bit more about the sparklers in question: There's absolutely no need to bust out the good stuff here. In fact, each of these drinks has the remarkable ability to elevate even that highly unfortunate bottle you were hostess-gifted with at your last dinner party into a truly delectable drink. So with that preamble, read on for a list of our current bubbly-based cocktail obsessions -- some inspired classics, some a bit more modern, but all absolutely perfect for sipping now.

 

The Pomegranate Poinsettia: Even if you're the most die-hard mimosa lover on the planet, you'd have to agree that the ever-present combo of o.j. and bubbly is ready for an upgrade. A much fresher, tangy-er brunch option (and frankly, the perfect training drink for the holiday parties that are about to descend upon us)? Pour one ounce of pomegranate liqueur into the bottom of a Champagne flute, fill almost to the brim with the bubbly of your choice, top off with pomegranate juice (if desired) and prepare to swoon. Just be prepared for this, too: Not every server or bartender recognizes this drink when requested, so you may need to explain how to put it together to your liking.

The Kir Royal: We'll admit that this drink had long fallen off of our radar, having had more heydays in the past 150-ish years than we can shake a swizzle stick at. We found ourselves rethinking our position over a recent happy hour (make that hours, plural) at Beatrice & Woodsley, where this classic blend of crème de cassis (a black currant liqueur made most famously in Burgundy, France) and sparkling wine quenched our thirst with aplomb. Lest you toss off this libation as merely a pretender to the Mimosa or Poinsettia throne, think again. The strong, complex base notes of tart berry fruit paired perfectly with the hearty snacks we enjoyed, including braised lamb flatbread and crispy-fried smoked mozzarella cheese sticks -- so no need to pigeonhole this drink into late-morning rotation only.

The St-Germain Cocktail: The decidedly hipster-beloved elderflower liqueur known as St-Germain has become a nearly inescapable fixture of most cocktail programs. We actually prefer it in this deliciously supporting role, serving as an ideal foil for a less-than-ideal quality sparkler. There's something magical about the combination of the sweetly floral and yeasty, toasty elements that match up here, particularly when kissed with a twist of lemon that will change the way you look at each of the two separate ingredients forever. One note: Go easy on the St-Germain when making these drinks -- the strong flavor goes a long way. You'll only need to add about a teaspoon to a full glass of bubbly in order to get the full, delightful effect. Or, make the drink even more poundable by combining the liqueur and bubbles over ice in a rocks glass and topping the off the whole shootin' match with club soda.

 

The Lillet Champagne Cocktail: Two great tastes that taste great together -- Lillet and Champagne. As summer slides into fall, Lillet's deeply aromatic, simultaneously bitter and sweet orange citrus notes serve as a perfect segue toward the heartier fare you're starting to crave. Speaking of those autumnal meals, we can't wait to sip this alongside a cool evening repast of citrus-stuffed roast chicken served with goat cheese and butternut squash puree. Better yet -- why not invite a few friends over for said meal and whip up a pitcher for an exceptionally easy food and wine pairing? Combine equal parts Lillet and sparkling wine in a pitcher, stir and garnish with orange slices. Bon appétit.

The Aperol Spritz: A few weeks ago, we weighed in on Denver's torrid love affair with Fernet, a famous digestivo that's risen to unbelievably popular heights in recent years. Well, just as the job of a digestivo is to settle the stomach after a meal, so exists the role of apertivo to stimulate one's appetite prior to chowing down. Enter Aperol, an early 20th century Italian invention of oranges, roots and bitter herbs that was first featured as part of the infamous Spritz around 1950. The Spritz is a delectably juicy combination of slightly more prosecco than Aperol, plus a splash of club soda both refreshes and stimulates the palate - we're particularly fond of the The Squeaky Bean's version, which features seltzer made in-house and a Castelveltrano olive garnish.

The French 75: There's only one Champagne cocktail we crave at the end of a particularly debaucherous night of drinking and eating, and that's this one. This pre-Prohibition era beverage sometimes uses gin, but the one we prefer features Cognac along with the aforementioned bubbly, simple syrup and a brisk burst of freshly-squeezed lemon juice. The very definition of a nightcap, the drink soothes us like no other -- particularly when we're tucked into our favorite corner booth at the Oxford Hotel's Cruise Room bar.

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