A Golden Champagne Cocktail for Academy Awards Parties

Tiny flecks of edible gold leaf dance on champagne bubbles in the Grant's Gold cocktail. Photo by Ramona d'Viola/Ilumus
Tiny flecks of edible gold leaf dance on champagne bubbles in the Grant's Gold cocktail. Photo by Ramona d'Viola/Ilumus

There’s no doubt lots of champagne corks will be popping all over Hollywood and surrounding districts as the Academy Awards – which gives Oscars to the best work in the movies the past year – rolls out another list of winners. If you ask me, the best supporting actress is just too hard this year – I wish they could split the Oscar five ways between Marisa Tomei, Amy Adams, Taraji Henson Penelope Cruz and Viola Davis. Or maybe the best dress should win.

If you want to make like the red carpet crowd, then pick up a bottle of bubbly by Moet & Chandon – Oscar just chose the venerable champagne house as the official champagne of the Academy Awards. Their wines including Nectar Imperial, Imperial Rose and the latest Grand Vintage will be poured from the Red Carpet cocktail party to the Governer’s Ball after party.

But if you want a golden champagne cocktail that fits the occasion, then try my Grant’s Gold, a champagne cocktail that features edible 23K gold leaf dancing in champagne along with VSOP Cognac and Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur. I created the signature drink recently for a special event at the Grant Grill, the fine dining restaurant in Starwood’s U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego.

While developing this recipe, I found that static cling can make the delicate gold leaf difficult to handle, but chopping it with the sticky candied ginger takes care of this. And when you drop the pieces of decorated ginger into the drink, they’ll slowly release little flecks of gold. The Grant’s Gold is potent and delicious and whether you choose to add the gold or not, the cocktail will add a luxurious note to any party.

Pair this cocktail with creme brulee, pound cake or dark chocolate desserts. The intense flavors of fresh ginger and cognac are a perfect counterpoint to sweets while the edible 23K gold leaf from Italy makes it memorable.

Grant’s Gold
Makes 1 cocktail
3 to 4 ounces brut champagne like Moet Brut Imperial, chilled
1 ounce Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
1/2 ounce VSOP cognac
2-3 slivers candied ginger with 23K gold leaf
Pour the champagne or sparkling wine into a flute. Add the ginger liqueur and
cognac. Just before serving, drop in the slivers of candied ginger with gold leaf.

By Maria Hunt aka The Bubbly Girl. All rights reserved.

Prosecco & Great Italian Bubbly for $20 or Less

Prosecco is brightened by muddled lemons, limes and tangerines and limoncello in this refreshing cocktail.
Prosecco is brightened by lemons, limes and tangerines and limoncello in this refreshing cocktail I call Il Sorrentino. Keep reading for the recipe.

Sipping our bubbly with sushi one day, my friend Lyndsay told me that on her last trip to Las Vegas, a bartender told her that all Italian sparkling wine isn’t Prosecco. She wasn’t convinced, so she asked moi, The Bubbly Girl.

While Prosecco, which comes from the Veneto region and stars in the famous Bellini from Harry’s Bar is quite famous, there are lots of other sparkling wines from Italy. In fact, Italy makes more different sparkling wines than any other country. And with one exception, all the Italian bubblies in this post can be had for less than $20 a bottle.

Probably the most elegant sparkler from Italy is the one that many people have yet to discover: Franciacorta. It’s crisp, elegant and has a toasty aged flavor, very similar to champagne. Try to look for Franciacorta from Ca’ del Bosco, considered one of the best producers in Lombardy; their wines start at about $39.

The Ca' de Bosco Franciacorta is made in Lombardia by Maurizio Zanella.
The Ca' de Bosco Franciacorta is made in Lombardia by Maurizio Zanella.

For a lusty dry red sparkling wine that’s great with pork and richer dishes, then look no further than Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna. The U.S. market was flooded with very inexpensive and rather simple Lambruscos for a long time, but now there’s good stuff readily available by brands like Ca’ de Medici, thanks to efforts of Lambrusco fans like Mario Batali throwing their weight behind it. I found a recipe for a Lambrusco Hot Wine Punch at Cooks.com.

If you like sweet sparklers, then you must try Moscato d’Asti, the refined and gently sparkling wine from Piedmont. Sometime back in college, you probably already met Moscato d’Asti’s more fruity, bubbly and casual cousin Asti that sells verrry affordably at most grocery stores. My favorite Moscatos include the Nivole by Michele Chiarlo and Saracco. Here’s a great dessert recipe from Martha Stewart Living for Ruby Red Grapefruit in Moscato.

During a tasting at ENO in the Hotel Del Coronado, the Pineto Brachetto was paired with artisanal chocolates.
During a tasting at ENO in the Hotel Del Coronado, the Pineto Brachetto was paired with artisanal chocolates.

Piedmont is also home to a  great rosso spumante called Brachetto d’Acqui. The brachetto is an ancient grape – it was one of Cleopatra’s favorites – that tastes like cranberry, raspberry and rose and is balanced between tangy and sweet. Look for wines by Marenco Pineto and Banfi’s Rose Regale. Try this delicious sounding Brachetto Holiday Punch spiked with cognac and Aperol from The Red Cat in NYC.

When it comes to mixing cocktails though, My favorite Italian bubbly is Prosecco, which is featured in many of the recipes in my new book The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion being released by Clarkson Potter in August. Here’s the recipe for Il Sorrentino, the drink pictured at the top of this post.

Il Sorrentino
Makes 1 cocktail

My friend Antonino put up pictures of the beautiful lemons and oranges that grow around his native Sorrento, Italy when he opened Arrivederci, the first in his San Diego restaurant empire. Sorrento is also thought to be the birthplace of Limoncello, a digestif made with lemon peels, sugar and vodka.

3 thin slices lemon
3 thin slices lime
3 thin slices tangerine
2 leaves lemon balm (or mint)
1 ounce Limoncello
½ ounce sour
5 ounces Prosecco

Add citrus and lemon balm to a rocks glass and muddle. Add Limoncello and sour and stir. Fill glass three-quarters with ice. Top with Prosecco. Garnish with slices of lemon, lime and tangerine.

Recipes for Simple & Sexy Valentine’s Champagne Cocktails

Raspberry wine mingles with champagne in this sexy cocktail.
Raspberry wine mingles with champagne in this sexy cocktail.

When Valentine’s Day approaches, the sexiest thing you can serve is a cocktail that stars sparkling wine or champagne. The combination of hearing the cork popping and the tickly bubbles seem to inspire romance.

Whether raspberry makes your heart flutter or you prefer the sophisticated and subtle flavor of roses, you’ll find that both my Raspberry Royale and Vintage Rose cocktails delightful. These are exactly the kind of fun and creative drink recipes you’ll find in my new book The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion being released this summer by Clarkson Potter.

Raspberry Royale
Makes 1 cocktail
1 ounce Trader Joe’s Raspberry Wine
4 to 5 ounces chilled champagne or sparkling wine
1 lemon twist
1 fresh or frozen raspberry

Add raspberry wine to a champagne flute. Top with chilled champagne or sparkling wine. Twist the lemon peel over the glass to release the oils and then drop it in. Add the raspberry and serve.

Cafe Chloe infuses simple syrup with organic rose petals to make this syrup.
Cafe Chloe infuses simple syrup with organic rose petals to make this syrup.

The Vintage Rose cocktail features a lovely rose-infused simple syrup created in the kitchen of Cafe Chloe in San Diego’s East Village. If you can’t get there to buy your own bottle, then take simple syrup and add rose water from a Middle Eastern grocery until you have a flavor you like. By the way, rose has long been regarded an aphrodisiac; its essence actually helps calm the body.

Vintage Rose Cocktail

Makes 1 cocktail
3/4 ounce rose syrup
4 to 5 ounces chilled sparkling wine or champagne
lemon twist (Meyer if possble)
organic rose petal (optional)

Add the rose syrup to a champagne flute. Top with the sparkling wine. Twist the lemon peel over the glass to release the oils and then drop it int the flute. Add an organic rose petal if you’ve got one handy.

Serve them in your favorite flutes, I’m currently in love with the vintage-y Horta champagne flutes that are a steal in my opinion for $12 apiece from Anthropologie.com.

A twist of Meyer lemon mimics the lemony fragrance of my favorite lavender roses.
A twist of Meyer lemon mimics the lemony fragrance of my favorite lavender roses.

California Sparkling Wine Tour in Pictures

Domaine Carneros winery
Domaine Carneros winery

California is dotted with beautiful wineries from one end of the state to the other. And in my opinion, some of the most beautiful are the places where sparkling wine is made.

I love the French chateau style winery at Domaine Carneros, the gorgeous foot bridge that leads to the modern J Winery, the rock gardens at Domaine Chandon and the quaint Victorian style house set against the forest at Schramsberg. And I can’t forget the gorgeous gardens and redwood trees at Korbel or the rustic barn and tasting room at Iron Horse.

Apparently Food Editor Margo True at Sunset Magazine agrees; the February 2009 issue features an article called All That Sparkles on California sparkling wine tours. Hmm, wonder if she had seen my former blog All That Sparkles before coming up with that headline?
Anyway, the article also includes a slide show with scenes from some of the beautiful places where California sparkling wine is made. .

Mai Tai Monday at Trader Vic’s Part 2

So here’s the full recipe for the Old Style Dry Mai Tai that bartender Lance Krack mixes at Trader Vic’s in the Beverly Hilton.

Besides 2.5 shots of Myers Dark Rum, Krack added a surprise float of Lemon Hart 151 Rum at the end. The Lemon Hart is a smoky and molasses-rich demarara rum that comes from Guyana. In the late 1700s, Mr. Lemon Hart became the first official rum supplier to the British Navy.

For a great discussion of the demarara rum in general and Lemon Hart in particularMai Tai Monday at Trader Vic\’s Part 2, check out this post by Trader Tiki.

Old Style Dry Mai Tai
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Mix
2.5 ounces dark rum
float Lemon Hart 151 Rum
1 chunk pineapple
1 maraschino cherry with stem removed
sprig fresh mint

Add lime juice, Mai Tai Mix and dark rum to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well chilled. Pour into a rocks class with crushed ice. Drizzle Lemon Hart 151 rum over the top of the drink. Garnish with a cocktail pick with a chunk of pineapple and a stemless maraschino cherry. Add a sprig of mint and serve.

Grilling Beef Cho Cho at your table is part of the fun of visiting Trader Vic's.
Grilling Beef Cho Cho at your table is part of the fun of visiting Trader Vic's.

Mai Tai Monday at Trader Vic’s

Forget the little umbrella; a Trader Vic's Mai Tai is always garnished with pineapple, a stemless maraschino cherry and fresh mint.
Forget the little umbrella; a Trader Vic's Mai Tai is always garnished with pineapple, a stemless maraschino cherry and fresh mint.

So later that same Monday afternoon I had lunch with the Luscious Ladies at Spago, Lana suggested we go to Trader Vic’s in the Beverly Hilton. Trader Vic’s is her favorite spot as much for the old school menu as the newly done modern tiki decor. The patio, which over looks the pool, features surf movies projected on the wall and beds for reclining, but those had been moved for the Academy Awards party that day.

Trader Vic’s has a very long menu of all kinds of historic Tiki drinks like the Raffles Bar Gin Sling, the Scorpion and the Queen’s Park Swizzle, which our waiter said was way too strong to even consider. But for Lana, the only cocktail to order is the Mai Tai. Victor Bergeron aka Trader Vic created the drink in 1944 at his eponymous restaurant in Oakland. For a great and salty account of how he conceived the original Mai Tai — which means out of this world in Tahitian — check out Bergeron’s story here.

The Trader Vic’s site lists several riffs on the Mai Tai recipe; it was originally a rather bracing rum drink, where juice of a whole lime balanced the orgeat almond syrup, simple syrup (called rock candy syrup in those days), orange Curacao and a 15-year aged rum. Unfortunately over the years many places have turned it into a sweet and fruity concoction that Bergeron himself hopefully would not recognize.

Lana likes her Mai Tais strong and dry with Myer’s Dark Rum. So bartender Lance Krack agreed to show us how in a video of him making a Dry Old Style Mai Tai. Besides the rum, some of the key ingredients include fresh lime juice, Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Mix and crushed ice.

Stay tuned for the exact recipe and a surprise in the Part 2 post.

Wolfgang Puck’s House Champagne…is Krug

Krug Rosé 375 ml
Krug Rosé 375 ml

What kind of champagne does a celebrity chef like Wolfgang Puck who has a restaurant empire that includes the famous Spago in Beverly Hills drink? I had never given it much thought or for that matter eaten at Spago in Beverly Hills. Until Monday.  And the experience didn’t disappoint in the least.

It was the kind of scene  that one might imagine goes on every day at Spago. I walked in, looked to my right and there was actor Dennis Farina holding court at a prominent table on the patio. The hostess saw me to the table where friends Lana and Barbara aka The Luscious Ladies Who Lunch were ensconced; I look up and there’s Skeet Ulrich sitting opposite. And in the quiet booths in back along the kitchen, chef Wolfgang Puck sat eating with a friend.

After we polish off celery root agnolotti in black truffle sauce, lobster Cobb salad and Asian style flat-iron steak from Chef de Cuisine Lee Hefter’s menu and wonderful lemon sabayon and cheese cake by Sherry Yard, Chef Puck comes over to say hello. We talk abotu the neighborhood, his latest projects; I told him about my new champagne cocktail book The Bubbly Bar that comes out in August.

“I love champagne,” Puck says with his characteristic grin.”My house champagne is Krug.” When I politely point out that I didn’t notice it on the Spago menu, he clarifies, “No, at my house!”

Puck explains that he stocks his home cellar with both Krug and the Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé – also one of my favorites. But now that his wife Gelila Assefa Puck has developed a taste for Krug, that’s all she drinks.

I wonder if the Pucks will be splurging this Valentine’s Day on the Krug Rosé half bottle, which comes in a gorgeous pearlized pink box with an interior embossed with curling silver vines. Like the Krug Grande Cuvée, the rosé has a unique richness that’s offset by notes of wild strawberry and spices. It’s just the sort of luxurious drink that romance deserves.