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The Bubbly Bar

Bubbly Girl Cocktail Recipes, Drinks

Make My Bittersweet Naughty Negroni

February 1, 2018

Anyone who loves classic cocktails or things Italian knows the Negroni. It’s a bracing and bittersweet cocktail that stars Campari, sweet vermouth and gin.

Lately, I’ve noticed that riffs on this traditional Florentine cocktail have been making the rounds.



Just the other day, GQ Magazine penned a love letter to the Negroni Sbagliato, a version that adds a sparkling wine, such as Prosecco, to the mix. The name “sbagliato” roughly means broken or incorrect, as if adding Prosecco is a bad thing.

The original Negroni is named for Count Camillo Negroni, an esteemed patron of Caffè Cassoni in Florence. He usually drank Americanos (Campari, sweet vermouth and club soda), but one day in 1919, he asked barman Fosco Scarselli to swap the soda for gin!

What may have started as libation to erase a bad day has become an Italian contribution to the classic cocktail pantheon.  The Count even has his own tribute site and inspired a couple books.

Judging from the drink, I bet he liked other bitter elixirs like Italian espresso. I found my first Negronis a bit too bitter and viscous for my palate. So while I was developing recipes for my book The Bubbly Bar back in 2007, I made a softer version.

My Naughty Negroni includes a splash of Moscato d’Asti. This refreshing sparkling wine from Piedmont adds freshness and lightens. But it’s still a perfectly bittersweet aperitif  and a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

The Naughty Negroni 

1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce gin
3-4 ounces Moscato d’Asti, chilled
1 orange peel spiral, for garnish

Add the Campari, vermouth and gin to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until your hands are cold, then strain into a champagne flute. Top with Moscato and garnish with the orange peel.

Makes 1 cocktail

© By Maria C. Hunt – Author of The Bubbly Bar. All rights reserved.

Pop Culture

Uncorked: Discovering My A-ha Moment with Champagne

December 8, 2011

An a-ha moment is when something becomes very clear to you. Kind of like the ideas in  Oprah’s back page column “Things I Know for Sure.”

During the recent Mutual of Omaha campaign to capture real people telling their own stories, I talked about the a-ha moment on the way to my becoming The Bubbly Girl. I remember being in Aspen for the Food & Wine Classic and sitting with a group of people at Nobu. One of managers at the restaurant asked me “why Champagne?”  I think I felt put on the spot a bit; it’s not often a stranger asks you to defend your chosen avocation. But I realized, “why not Champagne?”

I love wines with bubbles. I like the way there’s a sense of danger associated with opening a bottle, if you don’t handle it right. It’s like an implied message that this is special stuff and you have to respect it. The physical properties of a méthode champenoise wine force you to observe the ritual of chilling it, not shaking it up, holding the cork carefully so it doesn’t fly off in your face. Even an expensive bottle of Bordeaux doesn’t have that kind of power.

Then there’s the moment when the cork leaves the bottle – either with a pop or soft sigh. Either way, that bubbly is talking to you, loud and clear. Other wines speak once you get them in the glass and start to taste, but bubbly can make a statement before you take a single sip.

And then there are those bubbles, those magical and mesmerizing streams of tiny pearls that erupt once champagne or sparkling wine is poured into a flute. I love the way they a release a stream of memories; maybe it was the Sunday afternoon bubbly with a boyfriend or girlfriend,  the Dom Perignon at a wedding, the prosecco and prosciutto on a trip to Italy or the before-dinner champagne with a friend who’s not with us anymore. Thinking back, those moments were all happy ones, and that glass in our hand connects us to all those bottled up good feelings.

Plus when it comes to food-pairing, bubbly just happens to be the best category of wine in the world. I like the idea of  bringing more happiness to people’s lives, especially when it’s something as simple as opening a bottle of bubbly.

I think we have – or can have – a-ha moments all the time. Maybe even every day. We just have to be paying attention to that little voice inside that tells us “this is not for me” or “yes, this is what I want to do”

So what’s your a-ha moment?

Bubbly Events

The Bubbly Girl at Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

October 19, 2010
Maria Hunt aka the Bubbly Girl is appearing at Epcot Food & Wine Festival Oct. 22-25.

Maria Hunt aka the Bubbly Girl is appearing at Epcot Food & Wine Festival Oct. 22-25.

Sparkling wine and gourmet cuisine might not immediately come to mind when one thinks of a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida.

But right now during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, which runs until Nov 14, the park has been transformed into a culinary amusement park. Epcot has attracted an exciting line-up of celebrity chefs like Cat Cora of The Food Network, Boston’s Todd English and Art Smith of Table 52 fame to do cooking demonstrations and appearances. I’m looking forward to seeing Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods at a Celebrating Family & Friends Luncheon Oct. 22 and Gale Gand at her Sweet Sunday dessert tasting and brunch on Oct. 24. Throughout the park, international chefs are serving up tastes of German spaetzle, Spanish Serrano ham and Korean barbecued ribs paired with regional wines and beers.

I'll be signing books and talking about bubbly at Epcot's Food & Wine Festival Oct 22-25.

I'll be signing books and talking about bubbly at Epcot's Food & Wine Festival Oct 22-25.

I’ll be speaking on Oct. 22, 23 and 24 as a part of Authors Without Borders, a program that features cookbook authors talking about their favorite subjects. I’ll be sharing what I love about “Bubbly: The Happiest Drink on Earth” and exploring international sparkling wines in my cocktail recipe book The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion (Clarkson Potter, 2009).

On Monday, Oct. 25 I’m mixing up my Stiletto Cocktail, giving tips on entertaining with bubbly and signing books for the discerning gourmands who are part of Disney’s Grape Getaway, a luxurious four-night package of exclusive food events and tastings limited to 100 guests.

Since one cannot live on great food and wine alone, there’s a series of free concerts called Eat to the Beat, featuring acts like Boyz II Men, 38 Special, Billy Ocean and Rick Springfield.

With all the good wine and food flowing at Epcot, it’s sure to be the happiest place on earth.

Bubbly Girl Cocktail Recipes

The Bubbly Girl Drink of the Week: Tropical Passion at Mr. Smith’s

May 21, 2010
Ataulfo mangoes are also known as Champagne mangoes because they're so delectable. (Courtesy Photo)

Ataulfo mangoes are also known as Champagne mangoes because they're so delectable. (Courtesy Photo)

I love mangoes. I discovered how amazing the ripe fresh fruit could taste during an internship at the Palm Beach Post, when I lived with this couple who had a mango tree in their back yard. If I could resist devouring the fragrant, sweet and golden fruit plain, it wound up in some sort of mango smoothie.

So why didn’t I include a mango cocktail in my sparkling cocktail book The Bubbly Bar? Who knows. Especially since one of the best mangoes around is the Champagne Mango, a smooth and golden-skinned variety so called because its sweet flesh doesn’t get stringy like other mangoes. The Champagne Mango comes from the variety known as the Ataulfo, named after a grower in Chiapas, Mexico.

I’ve enjoyed some tasty mango drinks, including the Mango Ginger Fizz at the Sheraton Twenty/20 in Carlsbad. The National Mango Board‘s web site shares some fun-sounding drinks, like the Sweet Escape and Tropical Egg Nog from mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim. And here in the Bay area, where there are plenty of bars with great champagne and sparkling wine cocktails, I discovered Mr. Smith’s.

Every Thursday, bubbly is the thing at Mr. Smith’s in near the Tenderloin. The bar has an old-fashioned feel but boasts three levels including a VIP room with bottle service (really?) and a dance floor. They pour $4 glasses of sparkling wine like the Segura Viudas Aria Brut Cava and offer their sparkling cocktails for just $5 instead of $10. I considered ordering the Absolute Lush, a blend of fresh raspberries, Chambord black raspberry liqueur and cava, but settled on the very tasty Tropical Passion. They were kind enough to share the recipe.

Tropical Passion
3 oz mango puree
1 oz Peach Schnapps
3 oz brut sparkling wine, chilled

Add the mango puree and Peach Schnapps to a champagne flute. Top with the chilled sparkling wine. For contrast, garnish with a raspberry or strawberry.

Bubbly Girl Cocktail Recipes, Drinks, Pop Culture

Absinthe Cockails: Killing Me Softly for MxMo

February 23, 2010

Of course, we all know now that absinthe doesn’t cause blindness or madness or any of the other evils ascribed to this high-proof spirit back during the run up to Prohibition. But outside of cocktail geeks and urban bars with pretensions of authenticity, I don’t see this spirit becoming the next. big. thing.

A couple years ago, on a visit to the Absinthe Museum of America in New Orleans, a fellow visitor succinctly summed up the real problem with the Green Fairy: ” I love buying different bottles of absinthe, I just don’t like drinking it.”

I have to admit I feel the same way. After I got over my fascination with Good & Plenty, licorice is something I like in small doses.

It was different back around the turn of the century in Europe where it became the drink of choice for creative types ranging from Oscar Wilde to Toulouse Lautrec, according to The Absinthe Buyer’s Guide. Anise flavored spirits are still popular and plentiful in Europe, the list at includes Pernod, pastis, ouzo, Sambucca, anisette and Pacharan I tasted in Spain’s Basque region.

It may have been in this licorice-loving context that Ernest Hemingway created his potent absinthe and champagne cocktail called Death in the Afternoon. His book Death in the Afternoon is considered one of the best books ever written about the deeper meaning behind bull-fighting in Spain. Hemingway borrowed the book name and contributed the drink made of a jigger of absinthe poured into a glass of champagne to a humorous collection of cocktail recipes by writers that was published in 1935, according to Absinthe Online.

I love the evocative name Death in the Afternoon; but since I think a little absinthe goes a long way, I fashioned Killing Me Softly, which I included in my book The Bubbly Bar. Besides being a tribute to the fantastic Roberta Flack song, it’s a delicate cocktail that leaves just a hint of licorice flavor lingering on the palate.

Killing Me Softly

1 sugar cube
1 teaspoon absinthe
1/2 ounce St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
4 ounces chilled brut champagne
1 thin slice lemon

Place the sugar cube in the bottom of a martini glass. Swirl the absinthe and elderflower liqueur in a cocktail shaker with ice to chill quickly and strain over the sugar cube. Top with the brut champagne. Lightly squeeze the lemon over the top of the drink and float on top.