Is there any greater meeting of the worlds of cocktails and wine than the Champagne Cocktail? Join Moët Hennessy Assemblage as it sets out to revive this venerable drink
Of the classic cocktails due a renaissance, the Champagne Cocktail is certainly among the most deserving, and Moët Hennessy is making that happen through its Assemblage programme.
The Champagne Cocktail has roots going back as far as the 1790s, when the Punch Romaine combined champagne with rum, white wine, egg white, lemon and orange juice. This punch was served aboard the Titanic, as a standalone course, the night it sunk.
Best in show
The bartenders on-stand at Imbibe Live
Callooh Callay, London, UK
Piano35, Turin, Italy
ROBERTO ROBLES OLMEDO
Carbonera Cocktail Bar, Madrid, Spain
Trillby & Chadwick, Helsinki, Finland
Follow the guys @mhassemblage
It wasn’t until 1855 that the term ‘Champagne Cocktail’ appeared in print, in an account of the Panama Railroad, and then in ‘Professor’ Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide, in which he suggested shaking champagne, sugar, bitters and lemon peel over ice.
Over the years, champagne has found its way into other notable cocktails: paired with absinthe in Ernest Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon, or with stout in the Black Velvet.
It’s unsurprising, with champagne providing a versatile, decadent and celebratory addition to mixed drinks. In recent years it’s become less of a cocktail menu staple, but that looks set to change.
Ready for revival
Moët Hennessy is uniquely placed to bring about the Champagne Cocktail’s resurgence. Its pan-European Assemblage programme brings together 40 bartenders from 34 cities each year, and covers Moët Hennessy’s champagne and spirits brands, including Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Hennessy Cognac, Belvedere Vodka, Glenmorangie and Ardbeg Malt Scotch Whisky.
Moët Hennessy Assemblage gets its name from the process of blending wines from the first and second fermentation to create champagne. In this case, it refers to the blending of bartenders, cultures and trends, as well as the champagnes and spirits in the company’s portfolio.
Each year’s bartenders spread their knowledge through a tour of Europe’s best bar shows, including Imbibe Live, plus takeovers of each other’s bars.
The programme was created last year, ending in a summit in Champagne. As well as dining experiences and a hot air balloon ride over the vines, the bartenders did cocktail and Champagne Cocktail workshops.
With educated ambassadors like these, not only is the destiny of this historic drink secure, but champagne’s future as a cocktail ingredient looks bright too.
Find out more by visiting Moët Hennessy Assemblage on Stand C30 during Imbibe Live on 1 and 2 July at Olympia London. And don’t miss sommelier, bartender and writer Stu Hudson and Callooh Callay’s Amber Blood in the Cocktail Lounge on Monday 1 July at 11am.
Champagne in cocktails
Drinks consultant Stu Hudson, who has worked with Moët Hennessy to research the history of champagne cocktails, talks us through some of champagne’s most iconic appearances in mixed drinks over the years.
DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON
‘Absinthe is great in small quantities, like a spice in cooking. Hemingway loved a drink, so he would add a lot, but I’d only add 15ml to 100ml of champagne. You get a lot of the fruity, citrusy character in the absinthe that you wouldn’t get to taste neat, and the champagne acts as a really cool vehicle for it.’
‘The story behind this drink is that it came from Brooks’s Club, when Prince Albert passed away. The chief steward of the club said that it was such a sad day that even the champagne should be in mourning. The roasted notes from the barley play with the yeasty notes from the autolysis. It’s so simple, and hands down the best match you’ll fi nd for oysters.’
(champagne, brandy, rum, arrack, tea, pineapple and more)
‘This is a proper balling drink. With arrack and pineapple, it had all the most expensive ingredients you could lay your hands on at that time, and twice as many ingredients as any other drink. Downscaled to a single drink it also works really well. We can trace this back as a Moët & Chandon drink, with the fi rst crates of Moët shipped to the palaces in 1811.’