Barack and Michelle Obama hosted a glittering reception this week for ambassadors to the U.S. from such far-flung places as Libya, Singapore, Chile and Japan. And what kind of bubbly did they serve to this international set? Turns out it was the Russian Cuvée from Iron Horse Vineyards in Sonoma County.
Besides being a fine example of sparkling wine crafted right here in the US of A, the Russian Cuvée has a history in diplomatic circles. It was the wine served at the historic Reagan-Grobachev Summits that helped end the Cold War in the late 1980s. The wine is similar to Iron Horse’s crisp Classic Brut, but the Russian Cuvée has a slightly richer and sweeter finish.
I heartily endorse serving Russian Cuvée – or any great bubbly – with potato chips; it’s a simple and magical combination. But at the White House party they went all out, serving a menu that included Tequila Smoked Salmon on Crisps, Petit Filet Mignon Sandwiches and Leek Tartlets as well as Fruit Cocktails with Whipped Cream and Marshmallows and Blueberry Vanilla Tartlets for dessert, according to a menu posted on the blog Obama Foodarama.
Man first walked on the moon on July 21, 1969, but did you know there was a champagne cocktail created 40 years ago to commemorate the event? Me either – and I captured so many delicious classic champagne cocktails in my new book The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion.
I heard about the Moonwalk cocktail this week when Grand Marnier came to The Hard Rock Hotel San Diego for a cocktail class and tasting led by Steve Olson of The BAR. We tasted the Grand Marnier 100 and 150 and talked about making the ideal margarita with “Grandma,” tequila, lime and agave nectar. I also learned that the cognac-based spirit created in 1880 was originally called Curacao Marnier, after the oranges used to make it. But hotelier César Ritz thought that the name Grand Marnier sounded more, well, grand, and it stuck.
Bartender Joe Gilmore at the Savoy Hotel in London crafted the original Moonwalk from Grand Marnier, graperuit juice, Moet & Chandon Brut champagne and a touch of rosewater. It’s currently on the menu at the trendy speak-easy style bar on Long Island called Dutch Kills. I think you’ll agree the Moonwalk has a very refined taste, but the rosewater adds a subtle exotic note, just the kind of thing one might want as they were flying to the moon.
Makes 1 cocktail
1 ounce Grand Marnier
1 ounce grapefruit juice
3 drops rose water
2 ounces brut champagne
Add the Grand Marnier, grapefruit juice and rosewater to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well chilled, then strain into an old-fashioned coupe style champagne glass or small martini glass. Top with champagne.
I’m always on the look out for sparkling new ideas and beautiful places to enjoy bubbly. So I was enchanted to learn about Crystallized, the new high-concept Swarovski jewelry boutique that opened in late June in New York City. The legendary Austrian company known for precision-cut crystals has several boutiques around the world and now there’s one at 499 Broadway in Soho.
Besides the truckloads of sparkly stones and baubles, Crystallized also boasts a lounge serving four kinds of sparkling wine and champagne: Adami Prosecco, Nicolas Feuillatte Brut and Moet & Chandon’s Brut Imperial and Brut Rosé Imperial. I haven’t seen the whole upscale food menu yet, but I heard about a coulibiac of salmon in puff pastry that would be complemented by the Brut Rosé Imperial and I’m sure they’re serving french fries which are fabulous with anything that sparkles.
The all-white space features a stunning crystal Cascade chandelier created by Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen that illuminates the boutique’s two levels. Yards of display cases show off Swarovski bi-cone and round faceted crystals and pendants like the Lotus in colors ranging from crystal aurora borealis to black diamond (yes, I make jewelry too); shoppers can buy stones to make their own creations or have them assembled at Crystallized. They also sell all kinds of crystal accessories like an almost-practical blinged-out USB thumb drive for $55; jewelry like the Divine Rock Light necklace that raises money for clean-water projects and transfers to make sparkly T-shirts.
Speaking of T-shirts, it’s a perfect time to mention that the new summer Bubbly Girl T-Shirts with short sleeves in a delicious shade of raspberry pink are now available in my online boutique. This shade seems to flatter every skin tone and the 100% cotton T-shirt emblazoned with a Swarovski crystal champagne flute and the words “bubbly girl” let you make a chic statement without even saying a word.
After months of anticipation, I finally managed to be in LA on a night when The Edison was open, so I went to check it out. Of course, a lot of the key people were away at cocktail conference in New Orleans, but you can’t always get what you want.
I walked a short distance into an alley near Second Ave. and Spring Street and immediately saw two big bouncers and a hostess in a long vintage style beaded dress. Once inside, I spotted a shoeshine guy in vintage attire; he sat in a room ringed in art Nouveau style iron work. The main part of the spacious bar is down a long, nearly two-story staircase. Casting a dim glow over the lower floor was a trippy hanging light made up of Tungsten filament bulbs and old blue glass insulators that spiraled down for what seemed like forever.
The voluminous bar is in the basement of an old private power plant; big metal structures that look like burners and furnaces are still in place, with low velvety banquettes and sofas set around them. Light is a recurring theme at the Edison, in the decor and even down to cocktail skewers in the shape of little light bulbs.
Part of the reason I wanted to visit was because I knew from conversations with Edison Spirits Director Aidan Demarest that the Edison loved champagne and sparkling cocktails. Demarest said that bubbly has a beguiling quality that tempts visitors to try other ingredients they’ve never tasted before. As you might expect, the bartenders dress in shirts, ties and vests and greet guests with a politesse not found a most bars in LA. The drink menu is labeled a Catalogue of Parts; inside I found drinks like the Absinthe 75, made with the licorice flavored green spirit; and The Mistress, a flirty drink with pomegranate syrup and champagne.
But since it’s spring I decided to try a the Amelie, a seasonal strawberry sparkling cocktail that’s new on the list. Demarest was even kind enough to share the recipe below. I sipped the fresh, cool Amelie and then got on to my next appointment, unfortunately before the 8:30 aerial dance and acrobatic show. I plan to go back on July 28 for the special event called Radio Room, when Demarest will be working behind the bar and treating guests to some of his electrifying cocktails while a unique cabaret style show that includes AiRealistic unfolds above.
2 fresh strawberries, hulled
2 cucumber slices
1-1/2 ounces white rum
3/4 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce honey syrup (equal parts honey and water blended)
float of champagne
In a cocktail mixing glass, muddle the strawberries and cucumber slices. Add the rum, lime juice and honey syrup and ice. Shake until well chilled then strain into a tall, Collins style glass filled with ice. Top with a float of champagne. Serve with a straw.
From The Edison Room in Los Angeles
Quel horreur! Francophile that I am, the Bubbly Girl has been so busy today that she nearly forgot the significance of July 14. I might have forgotton completely if not for this timely wine lifestyle missive called The Daily Sip from Bottlenotes. Today is Bastille Day, the day when French people celebrate independence. I was just in France in May for a champagne story in Champagne and stayed near the Bastille.
Of course, I also made sure to have a Kir Royale, a blend of the black currant liqueur creme de cassis and champagne, which is one of my favorite classic champagne cocktails. The drink has story behind it too; as I detail in The Bubbly Bar, my champagne and sparkling wine cocktail book that’s being released on Aug. 25. It was named after Felix Kir, the mayor of Dijon, France who played an important role in the French Resistance. To make your own Kir Royale, add a tablespoon of creme de cassis to a glass of cold brut champagne or sparkling wine. Twist a strip of lemon peel over the glass – this is important! – and drop it in.
On my first visit to Venice in northern Italy, I discovered fragolini di bosco, the tiny, aromatic wild strawberries. They’re also prized in France, where they’re known as fraises de bois. Adored for their unique perfumed aroma and curious crunchy texture, these berries once grew wild in the woods. Now they’re carefully cultivated by discerning farmers, including the ones at Chino Farm in Rancho Santa Fe.
Visiting Europe in late spring, I always try to get my wild strawberry fix. I got a taste in Paris when I walked over to the Ile Ste. Louis on an extraordinarily hot day for an an ice cream cone from the famous Berthillon. The passion fruit sorbet was exquisite, but the main event was the soft pink fraise de bois sorbet that had a fragrant almost nutty flavor, and was studded with frozen berries. But since it was an extraordinarily hot day, the line for ice cream was extraordinarily long, so I didn’t go back again. And then when I got to Puglia in southern Italy, I couldn’t find my little strawberries at all; it was already cherry season.
So I was delighted back here in San Diego to discover the Strawberry Fields cocktail at the W Hotel San Diego downtown. The simple libation stars Fragoli, an imported Italian liqueur made with wild strawberries. It captured their taste perfectly and in fact, has little freeze-dried wild strawberries floating in the bottle.
To make a Strawberry Fields at home, mix 1-1/2 ounces of Fragoli with 4 ounces of chilled Veuve Clicquot champagne. The sweet, low-alcohol liqueur from Emilia -Romagna would be delicious with the Italian sparkling wine prosecco, or even over berries or ice cream. Since it’s kind of a boutique item, Fragoli can be hard to find in retail stores. It can, however be ordered from the Toschi company’s Fragoli web site; the best price I found on it was at New York state mail-order liquor stores Mid Valley Wine and Market View Liquor that sell Fragoli for about $24.
I was more than a little intrigued when I heard about the new Belvedere Black Raspberry Vodka nicknamed Maceration. First I was surprised that a somewhat obscure culinary term was chosen as the buzz word for this new spirit that is flavored with fresh raspberries.
In case you didn’t know, maceration is what you’re doing when you let fruit sit in brandy overnight before making sangria. The liquor makes the fruit soften and release its flavors.
But the part about the new Belvedere vodka that really caught my attention was the Girl’s Night Out Contest. The winner and seven friends will be treated to a night out in a city near their home that includes being whisked around in a limo, dinner at a fine dining restaurant and an overnight at a posh hotel suite. The winner will also get to use a white leather and metallic Jonathan Kelsey Belvie Bag like the one shown below. Other prizes include a day at luxury spa. The contest is open to women 21 and over through July 31.
Whether you win or not, try making the Midnight Rosé Fizz, a maceration-style summer cocktail shown above.
Midnight Rosé Fizz
3 fresh blackberries
dash agave nectar
3/4 oz Belvedere Black Raspberry vodka
Dash Peychaud bitters
3 to 4 ounces brut rose sparkling wine or champagne
Muddle berries with a dash of agave syrup. Shake with the bitters and vodka in a cocktail shaker filled with ice until well-chilled. Pour into a champagne flute and top with rosé sparkling wine or champagne. Garnish with a rose petal or other edible greenery.