Champagne Kiss Controversy: Cast Your Vote, Get Some Chocolate

Jacques Torres Champagne Kisses
Jacques Torres Champagne Kisses

I’m not a huge fan of eating chocolate while sipping champagne — this decadent combo messes up the flavors of both. But I do love fine chocolate candies that get a little extra sparkle from a dose of bubbly.

French born pastry chef Jacques Torres in NYC makes all sorts of delicious candies at his Willy Wonka-esque chocolate shops in Brooklyn and Manhattan. One of the latest creations by Mr. Chocolate is the Champagne Kiss, smooth squares of imported chocolate adorned with a set of lipstick red lips.  He blends Taittinger Brut Prestige Rosé Champagne along with high quality milk and dark chocolate.

Apparently somebody in the Hershey Company’s legal department was having a very slooow day. The chocolate conglomerate sent a poison-pen letter to the chocolatier who became famous at Le Cirque telling him he might want to rename his candies something like Champagne Smooches or else! They say they’re worried that consumers might mistake Torres’ high end confections which cost $1.50 a piece for their sorta-chocolaty, silver foil-wrapped teardrops. Curiously, chocolate is the 4th ingredient in a Hershey’s Kiss according to this Official Snack Report by WASAW; the first three are sugar, milk and cocoa butter.

This graphic by the NY Post neatly explains why it would be rather challenging to mistake a Jacques Torres Champagne Kiss for one by Hershey's.
This graphic by the NY Post neatly explains why it would be rather challenging to mistake a Jacques Torres Champagne Kiss for one by the Hershey Company.

Despite the heat, Torres is refusing to melt and is fighting Hershey’s. He’s also giving away 10,000 kisses — sorry, the chocolate ones — to lucky visitors who stop by any of his three NYC chocolate shops in Dumbo, Hudson Square or the Upper West Side on April 29.

He’s also circulating a petition online, asking supporters to sign on so he can save his Champagne Kisses. In case you need help figuring out why this chocolaty contretemps matters to you, anyone signing gets a coupon for a free sample of Torres chocolates.

The Bubbly Girl’s Drink of the Week: Angel Eyes at La Puerta

The Angel Eyes uses Ronsangel hibiscus infused tequila and the vintage liqueur Creme de Violette.
The Angel Eyes uses Rosangel hibiscus infused tequila and the vintage liqueur Creme de Violette.

With spring turning into summer — at least in San Diego — it seemed the perfect time for a fresh floral cocktail. I love the complexity and hint of mystery that floral flavors add to cocktails. When they’re used with champagne, the bubbles take those wonderful scents into the air and add another dimension to the experience.

Rosangel is a new hibiscus infused tequila by Gran Centenario that has a subtle floral flavor and just happens to be a gorgeous shade of pink. Jennifer Queen, the head bartender at the hip Mexican restauant La Puerta in San Diego, uses Rosangel and a vintage liqueur called Creme de Violette to craft a seductive champagne cocktail she calls Angel Eyes. If pink, hibiscus flavored tequila strikes your fancy, then check out the gallery of Rosangel recipes like a Rosangel Ruby Fizz from Julier Reiner and other top mixologists from around the nation.


1 ½ oz. Gran Centenario Rosangel Tequila

½ oz. Creme de Violet

½ oz. Agave nectar

4-5 Muddled Blackberries

Squeeze of Lemon

Rosé Champagne

Preparation: Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and fine strain into a Champagne flute.

Top with Rosé Champagne and garnish with a sprig of mint.

From Jennifer Queen, La Puerta in downtown San Diego

La Dolce Vita: 5 Great Prosecco Cocktails for Spring

The Strawberry Smash is a refreshing spring cocktail with strawberries, prosecco and your favorite fresh herb.
The Strawberry Smash is a refreshing spring cocktail with strawberries, prosecco and your favorite fresh herb.

I just came back from a trip to Puglia in Southern Italy, and found the people there to be warm and fiercely proud of their regional wines like Salice Salentino, their orecchiette pasta and fragrant local olive oils. But curiously, when it came to sparkling wine, their drink of choice was usually prosecco from northern Italy.

As a Bubbly Girl, I was in heaven, being able to order a glass of this delicate and fresh wine from the Veneto just about everywhere and usually for just 2 or 3 euro ($3 to $4.50). Why can’t it be that way here in the U.S?” I wondered with a sigh.

Well, just because prosecco isn’t on tap at the local bar doesn’t mean you can’t make it your house wine. With warmer weather coming, it’s a perfectly refreshing drink, with its subtle flavors of green apple, flowers and minerals, its soft bubbles and relatively low alcohol content. And it’s a very affordable wine too: it’s possible to find a satisfying bottle for $8 to $20 at most wine shops. Some readily available brands include Mionetto, Zonin, Nino Franco, Zardetto and Bisol.

The most famous prosecco cocktail is the peachy Bellini created back in the late 1940s by Giuseppe Cipriani and served ever since at Harry’s Bar in Venice. You’ll find prosecco is one of the most sociable sparkling wines around, mixing and mingling quite easily with a range of spring and summer fruits and flavors. I’m sure prosecco cocktails with strawberries, honeydew melon, lemons and peaches created by me and some creative people who love to entertain will help you live a festive, dolce vita style spring.

Strawberry Smash
This variation on the mojito lets you mix strawberries with your favorite herb such as mint, basil, lemon verbena, cilantro, rosemary or thyme. Be sure to try the drink out before serving it friends to get the amount of herbs dialed in to your taste buds. It’s tasty with the alcohol or without; for a totally non-alcoholic drink, use sparkling water instead of the prosecco.

3 ripe organic strawberries, hulled and sliced
6 leaves of one fresh herb such as mint, basil, verbena, cilantro OR 1-inch section of fresh rosemary or thyme
1 ounce good white rum like 10 Cane or clean white gin like Bombay Sapphire
1 ounce all-natural sour mix (see note)
2 ounces prosecco

Add the strawberries and your selected herb to a rocks glass. Smash the strawberries and herbs gently with a muddler until the berries are a pulp and the herbs smell strong. Add the rum or gin if using and sour mix to the glass and give it a stir. Fill 3/4 full with ice. Top off with the prosecco. Garnish with a sprig of the herb you used.

Note: To create my all natural sour mix, mix 1 cup lemon and or lime juice with 1 cup sugar in a medium non-reactive saucepan. Heat over a low-medium flame, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When cool, pour syrup into a sterile glass bottle and refrigerate. Keeps for up to 2 weeks.

To make the vanilla simple syrup, add 1-1/2 cups water and 1 cup sugar to a medium saucepan. Heat over a low-medium flame, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Toss in a vanilla pod slit lengthwise. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the syrup cool. Remove the vanilla pods and set them aside. Pour the syrup in a sterile glass bottle. Keeps for up to 2 weeks.  (Once the vanilla pods are dry, bury them in your sugar cannister to make vanilla-scented sugar.)

By Maria Hunt, author of The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion

See-Through Sangria
This recipe was inspired by a drink Denise Gee created for her gorgeous book Southern Cocktails. It’s a very light and refreshing take on a white sangria, without the brandy that can make sangrias so potent.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 bottle prosecco
1/2 cup Cointreau
1/4 cup sugar
1 unpeeled lime, thinly sliced and seeded
1 unpeeled lemon, thinly sliced and seeded
1 small unpeeled orange, thinly sliced and seeded
1-1/2 cups fresh organic strawberries, hulled and sliced
1-1/2 cups green grapes, sliced in half
2 cups chilled sparkling water or club soda or more to taste
several small whole strawberries with stems, for garnish

Combine the wine, Cointreau, sugar and fruit in a large pitcher and refrigerate overnight. Pour into cocktail glasses filled with ice and top off with club soda. For the garnish, slit the bottoms of the whole strawberries and place one on the rim of each glass.

From Southern Cocktails by Denise Gee, Chronicle Books, 2007.

Prosecco, limoncello and homemade natural sour mix create a sparkling twist on the Lemon Drop.
Prosecco, limoncello and homemade natural sour mix create a sparkling twist on the Lemon Drop.

The Lemon Pop
My friend Rob uses his homemade limoncello made with organic Meyer lemons from Sonoma, California for this variation on the Lemon Drop. He originally created it with Iron Horse Blanc de Blancs, but it’s also great with a certain Italian sparkler.

Makes 1 cocktail

2 slices fresh lemon
1/2 ounce limoncello
1/2 ounce all-natural sour mix (see note above)
4 ounces prosecco

Use the lemon slice to moisten the edge of your champagne flute or coupe. Put the sugar on a flat saucer. Press the  rim of the glass into the sugar to make a frosted rim.

Carefully add the limoncello, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and the natural sour mix to the prepared glass. Top with prosecco. Garnish with the remaining lemon slice and serve.
By Rob Akins and Maria Hunt aka The Bubbly Girl

Lavender and Peach Bellini
This cool twist on the classic peach nectar and prosecco cocktail from Harry’s Bar in Venice comes from Linnea Johansson, a top New York City party planner. If peaches aren’t quite in season (please don’t use hard ones from Chile) pick up peach nectar in the juice aisle of your favorite supermarket. Dried lavender is available at most organic grocery stores or plant some in your garden!

Makes 1 cocktail
1 part peach puree (say 2 ounces)
2 parts prosecco (4 ounces)
1 pinch edible, non-toxic dried lavender

Add the peach puree to the bottom of a champagne flute. Carefully add the prosecco. Don’t stir, but use a soon to carefully pull the puree up along the sides of the glass, so you don’t lose the bubbles. Garnish with the lavender.

From Perfect Parties by Linnea Johansson, Skyhorse Publishing, 2007.

Spring Green
Honeydew melon, mint and a bit of vanilla make this a very original and fragrant cocktail inspired by a drink called The Lawn Mower that L.A. caterer Nicole Aloni included in her book The Backyard Bartender. This version uses a vanilla syrup instead of vanilla vodka to keep it on the lighter side.
Makes 2 cocktails

1 cup diced honeydew or similar melon
1 ounce vanilla bean infused simple syrup (See Note)
1/2 fresh lime
1/2 ounce all natural sour mix (see Note again)
1 tablespoon roughly chopped mint, plus a couple whole leaves
1/2 cup (4 ounces) Prosecco

Juice the melon or puree in a blender, adding a little water if necessary to get things going. Strain the melon puree through a fine mesh tea strainer into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Add the vanilla bean syrup, a good squeeze of lime juice, the all natural sour mix and chopped mint to the cocktail shaker and shake vigorously 20 to 30 times. Strain equal portions of the mixture into two champagne flutes. Top each one with 1/4 cup of the prosecco. Garnish each drink with a mint leaf and serve.
Adapted from The Backyard Bartender by Nicole Aloni, Clarkson Potter, 2007.

The Bubbly Girl’s Drink of the Week: The Siren Bellini at Sé Hotel

The Siren Bellini is a prosecco topped with a froth of fresh peaches, peach Schnapps and gelatin.
The Siren Bellini at Sé Hotel in San Diego

With its opulent modern decor, the Sé Hotel has set a new standard of for San Diego luxury hotels. And Siren, the newly opened pool bar on the fourth floor, is equally exceptional. There’s the infinity edge pool, the posh party room and the fact that they even allow patrons to sit down in the central Uber lounge or one of the comfy cabañas without forcing them to spring for a $300 bottle of vodka.

But the real difference is on the cocktail list. Siren is the first bar in San Diego to offer molecular cocktails, where science meets mixology. Inspired by experimental chefs like Ferran Adria of El Bulli in Spain and Grant Achatz of Chicago’s Alinea, bartenders are using foams, liquid nitrogen and gelatins to add a new dimension to cocktails.

Being The Bubbly Girl, my favorite was the Siren Bellini. The circa 1948 Venetian prosecco and peach puree drink has been updated by 60 years with a froth of peach puree, peach Schnapps and gelatin shot out of a soda siphon fitted with a CO2 cartridge.

Bar Manager Akop Paronyan pours prosecco in a martini glass and then covers it in a layer of peach foam. The first sip is like drinking a sweet, peach-flavored cloud. After a few minutes the cap settles and the tangy prosecco adds a crisp contrast to the peach flavor.

“It’s like two cocktails in one,” Paronyan says.

Bar manager Akop Paronyan uses a soda siphon to apply a froth to molecular Bellini at the Sé Hotel pool bar.
Bar manager Akop Paronyan uses a soda siphon to apply a froth to molecular Siren Bellini at the Sé Hotel pool bar.

Check back for Sunday’s post to learn more about Siren’s molecular offerings. In case you want to go order your own, Sé is at 1047 Fifth Ave. in downtown San Diego. 619-515-3000.

How Green is My Bubbly: 5 Eco Champagnes & Sparkling Wines for Earth Day

With Earth Day approaching it seems like a perfect time to plan an organic picnic at your favorite beach or park. You’ll go to the store for organic salad greens, strawberries, naturally raised meat and even eco-ice cream, but what to drink?

A couple years ago as I was researching my book The Bubbly Bar, I wanted to include a chapter on organic champagnes and sparkling wines. I had to settle for a section in the appendix because they weren’t widely available.

But it’s a whole new world as we approach Earth Day 2009. I found loads of green bubbly made from sustainable or certified organically grown grapes on wine web sites and at stores like Trader Joe’s and Fresh & Easy. Conscientious winemakers, who care about preserving the land and the health of their workers and customers, are making chemical-free wines in the US, France, Spain, South Africa and Italy. And though many items created with organic ingredients do cost more, I found wines for under $15, including one that’s just $4.99!

With the growing interest in organic foods and beverages, which was estimated to be a $23 bilion industry in 2008 according to the Organic Trade Association, it’s no surprise to see more wines made from organic grapes available. Because of U.S. regulations, wines can’t be labeled as “organic” if sulfites, a naturally occurring substance that’s used to stabilize and preserve wines, are added. USDA regulations limit wines from organically grown grapes to 100 ppm of sulfites; a typical sparkling wine will have just 70 ppm.  Biodynamic grapes are grown according to the highest  level of organic agriculture. Producers follow the tenets of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner which involve planting according to the cycles of the moon leads to healthier plants.

The latest major winery to move to all-organic production is Domaine Carneros by Taittinger in the Napa Valley. “All 300 acres of our vineyards are certified organic,” says Eileen Crane, winemaker and CEO of Domaine Carneros. “We’re the only sparkling wine house in all of the US that can say that.”

Crane said they started following organic growing practice in 2005 in order to qualify for the official designation in 2007. When weeds come up, they till the soil. To deal with pesky bugs that eat the grape leaves, they brought in a flock of organic chickens. And most importantly, Crane says her wines, which have an incredible balance of freshness and French toastiness, taste even better.
“It’s off the charts,” Crane says. “The vines look happy they’re vibrant and green and it feels good to walk in the vineyard.”

Here are five great sparkling wines and champagnes made from organic and sustainably raised grapes to pop the cork on this Earth Day 2009; just be sure to recycle that bottle! To learn about five more great eco-friendly wines, sign up for my free entertaining newsletter The Bubbly Girl Chronicles.

Albero Sparkling Wine from Spain

Albero Sparkling Wine from Spain

Albero Sparkling Wine
This delightful bargain wine is crafted from macabeo and airén grapes at Bodegas Iranzo in Valencia, which has been organic since 1994.  It’s not super complex, but this wine has hints of citrus and green pear and is pleasant and refreshing like a Sunday afternoon party.
About $4.99 at Trader Joe’s

Makulu Moscato is made from sustainably raised grapes in South Africa.
Makulu Moscato

Makulu Moscato
South Africa
Makulu, the second oldest cellar in South Africa, means “big”  in the Zulu language.  Big is also a good description for this blend of moscato, chenin blanc and colombard grapes that’s bursting with flavors of peaches, apricots and pears. This wine, which is made from sustainably grown grapes, is very low in alcohol and  comes from the Paarl Ward region of Western Cape of South Africa.
About $6 at Fresh & Easy stores and Ingersoll Wine & Spirits

Albet i Noya Cava Brut Reserva
Albet i Noya Cava Brut Reserva

Albet i Noya Cava Brut Reserva
Albet i Noya is Spain’s leading organic winer producer; this cava is made from chardonnay, xarel-lo, macabeo and parellada grapes that were grown in the Penedes region. It has a bright, crisp flavor of lemon zest and orange balanced by a nutty brioche finish.
About $18 at  at Appellation Wine & Spirits

Domaine Carneros Brut
Domaine Carneros Brut

Domaine Carneros Brut
The wines from Domaine Carneros, which is owned by Taittinger, have always had a French structure and toastiness to them balanced by juciy California fruit. Since going organic back in 2005, the wines seem even more crisp and clear.
About $22 at Beverages & More

Fleury Brut Rosé Champagne
Fleury Brut Rosé Champagne

Fleury Brut Rosé Champagne
Fleury was the first champagne producer to go biodynamic back in 1989, meaning they not only abstain from chemicals and pesticides, but they feed the land and plant by moon cycles so plants are more vigorous. This rose is made from 100% pinot noir  and is elegant but reveals a toasty depth too.
About $49 at K & L Wines.

Maria Hunt, the SDNN Food & Drink Editor, is the author of The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion being released in August by Clarkson Potter. She writes the champagne, cocktails and entertaining web site The Bubbly Girl.

Dom Perignon Dinner at The Ivy Hotel

The Ivy Hotel in San Diego is presenting a luxurious Dom Perignon dinner on April 22. Three vintages will be paired with seasonal cuisine by Executive Chef Nathan Coulon.
The Ivy Hotel in San Diego is presenting a luxurious Dom Pérignon dinner on April 22. Three vintages will be paired with seasonal cuisine by Executive Chef Nathan Coulon.

I love pairing champagne and sparkling wines with food, but it’s rare to get a chance to do this with high-end vintage wines and cuisine. Those twin pleasures come together April 22 at the Ivy Hotel in San Diego, when they present a Dom Pérignon champagne dinner in the signature restaurant The Quarter Kitchen.

Three vintages of DP: the 2000, the Oenotheque 1993 and the Rosé Vintage 1998 will be paired with cuisine from Executive Chef Nathan Coulon who uses classic techniques and local seasonal ingredients to create a very balanced and delicious cuisine. The menu includes a Osetra caviar, chilled leek soup with a bacon gastrique and a spring halibut with fava beans, Meyer lemon zest and spring onions in a beurre blanc sauce.

The rarest wine is the Oenotheque  (that’s eno-TEK) 1993. In spectacular vintages, the house puts away wine to age in a special wine cellar known as the Oenotheque, which means wine library. Because of its long aging — 13 years  for the 1993 — the champagne is described as being powerful yet with fruity and mineral notes.

The Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1993 is an extremely rare wine that spent 13 years aging on yeast, which gives it a very rich aroma and bold yet elegant flavors.
The Dom Pérignon Oenotheque 1993 is an extremely rare wine that spent 13 years aging on yeast, which gives it a very rich aroma and bold yet elegant flavors.

The black and white photo with the dinner invite is one of a series with Claudia Schiffer shot and conceived by designer Karl Lagerfeld for the launch of Dom Pérignon’s Oenotheque. The back story is of a happy young couple with money who are slightly bored; drinking champagne causes the husband to fantasize about his wife being many different women: Marie Antoinette, a French maid, a dominatrix, a blushing bride…To see the rest of the series, check out this slide show on

The dinner is $150 per person; cocktails will be served at 7 p.m. and dinner starts at 7:30. For more information or to make reservations, call 619.814.2000.

Drink of the Week: The Japanese 75

The Japanese 75 offers an Asian twist on the classic champagne cocktail French 75.
The Japanese 75 at Alchemy in South Park offers an Asian twist on the classic champagne cocktail the French 75.

When the work week is finally over, what better way to unwind than with a cocktail?!? In honor of Fridays, I’m starting a new Bubbly Girl feature called Drink of the Week that will soon be archived on my web site The Bubbly Girl.

This week’s cocktail is The Japanese 75, an Asian riff on the classic champagne cocktail The French 75, which stars gin and sour. Frankie Thaheld, who makes super inventive and delicious drinks at George’s at the Cove in La Jolla, created the Japanese 75 for the new South Park neighborhood restaurant called Alchemy.

Frankie’s drink is tart-sweet and fragrant with Plymouth gin; it gets its tang from yuzu juice. In case you hadn’t heard of it,  the yuzu is a fragrant Japanese citrus fruit that’s intensely sour. The juice is available at nearly any Asian market or on; a little bit goes a long way and it also makes a tasty lemonade.

The Japanese 75

1/2 oz. Yuzu Juice
1 oz. Plymouth Gin
1/2 oz. simple syrup
Dry Sparkling Wine

Shake first three ingredients with ice and strain into a champagne flute.  Fill with sparkling wine and drop in a maraschino cherry.

From Mixologist Frankie Thaheld of George’s at the Cove