A POOR MAN'S CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL


Champagne cocktails are very simple to make. Put a sugar lump in the bottom of a glass. Add a dash of Angostura bitters. Cover with brandy. Top up with chilled Champagne or more realistically with Spanish Cava. Be careful at this stage. Another name for a Champagne cocktail is a Whoosh! because that's what happens if you add the fizz too fast. Yes, you can tell good fizz from bad, and good brandy from bad, but once you've sweetened them and flavoured them with each other and with Angostura bitters, differences are harder to detect. Even a poor man can enjoy cheap ones occasionally. 



This is probably the cheapest I've ever made, photographed on the kitchen window sill a few days after we'd returned from our first trip to Spain in about 3 years. The Cava was ridiculously cheap at 1.99€ a bottle: call it £1.80 or $2.35. It's just about drinkable on its own, but it's much better in a cocktail or as part of a Buck's Fizz/Mimosa (sparkling wine and fresh orange juice). It is however Metodo Tradicional or bottle-fermented.

Next, the brandy. Cheap Spanish brandies are weak (as little as 36% alcohol) and heavily sweetened. Again, not much good on their own, but if you're going to dilute them with sparkling wine, sweeten them still further and add Angostura bitters, you might have some difficulty in distinguishing the end result from cask strength vintage Cognac. This one was 8.99€, call it £8 or a bit over $10.

The most expensive ingredient is the bitters, but as I've only ever bought two or three bottles in my entire life, I can't remember what I paid for it: this one is probably 15 years old. At a rough guess you should get at least 200 dashes of "pink" (as it's known in the Royal Navy, where it's the pink in a pink gin) from a 200 ml bottle like this one, and it might be as high as 500. A friend once spent several minutes with a toothpick, trying to unblock the top of a bottle before he realized that it was in fact empty: for the first time in his life (he had been retired for some years) he had actually finished a bottle. He had been a diplomat, posted somewhere new every few years, and rather than shipping a part full bottle he'd throw or give it away and buy a new bottle at his new posting. 

Finally, you'll notice that I used a small glass (from a vide-grenier, of course). This is mostly because all Champagne cocktails tend go down at about the same speed regardless of size; are wickedly strong and quickly absorbed; and create vicious hangovers. This one contains about 15 ml  or half an ounce of brandy (about 20 centimes' worth, 18p, $0.22) and about 75 ml or 2.5 ounces of Cava: maybe another 20 centimes. The sugar-lump and the Angostura bitters probably add less than another 10 centimes together, so the whole cocktail comes in at 50 centimes: 45p or $0.60. So, yes, a poor man's Champagne cocktail. 


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Words and picture copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2017