I get lots of questions about sparkling wine and champagne at my web site The Bubbly Girl. Some times they’re asking my opinion of a certain wine, or whether it’s alright to drink an old bottle of champagne they’ve been saving – I always say yes to that one; you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised. Other times they want me to help divine the name of a wine they liked from a few flavor clues.
I got one of those questions the other day from a woman who had been served champagne at wedding that tasted just like apple cider. Since champagne is made from grapes and many people are trying to save money at a wedding, it’s very likely what was served as “champagne” at this nuptial was closer to a sparkling cider like Martinelli’s than Moët.
But the question got me thinking about the delicious bright and sweet taste of fresh apple cider made from fall apples. If you have a juicer, try making your own apple juice sometime – it’s nothing like the flat and sugary golden liquid that comes in glass jugs and juice boxes. The closest thing to making your own is getting fresh apple cider in a soft plastic jug.
The season and the cider inspired this cocktail I call Spicy Sparkling Cider, which is a mixture of fresh cider and sparkling wine. I used the Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut, though an extra dry style of bubbly would work if you like a sweeter drink. It’s spiked with Navan, a natural vanilla cognac by Grand Marnier and warm spices like cinnamon, star anise and ginger. Spicy Sparkling Cider is a fun individual drink – we had it before Christmas Eve dinner- but would make a delicious punch as well garnished with whole crab apples bobbing on the surface.
Spicy Sparkling Cider
2 ounces fresh apple cider (don’t use anything from a glass jug)
1.5 ounces Navan Vanilla Cognac
1 sliver cinnamon stick
1 sliver candied ginger
1 star anise (optional)
3 to 4 ounces brut or extra dry sparkling wine, chilled
slice crab apple, cut crosswise to show the star
Add the cold apple cider and Navan to a rocks glass or small stemless wine glass. Add the cinnamon stick, ginger and star anise, if you’re using it to the cider-cognac mixture. Let the spices rest in the cider-cognac mixture for a 5 to 10 minutes to give them time to release their flavor. Top with the sparkling wine, garnish with the apple sliced and serve right away.
By Maria Hunt, author of The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion (Clarkson Potter, $16.99)