SODA-LIGHTFUL: Aldo's Italian Soda, served at Aldo's Sidewalk Cafe in San Juan Capistrano, is made with 1 oz. Torani Raspberry syrup, 8 oz. San Pellegrino water, ice and half-and-half to float on top.
Adding a fine spritz to a drink is a marvelous thing, a centuries-old practice. Today, however, mixologists and bar chefs no longer think in terms of committing a splash of club soda to a cocktail. Mere carbonation is passe, now it's about adding quality effervescence. A spritz helps achieve all-important balance between the various elements in a cocktail. It enhances a drink's mouth feel, and most importantly, effervescence energizes a libation, transforming it from flat and lifeless to teeming with vibrancy and pizzazz.
One thing you can do to immediately improve your drink-making abilities is look beyond using carbonated water from the beverage gun. Artificially charged water created on-site can hardly compare to the natural effervescence of sparkling waters, source-derived products like San Pellegrino, Perrier, or Ramlosa. These famous waters have an abundance of fine bubbles and mild acidity that invigorates a cocktail. Club soda can't begin to measure up.
There are a growing number of interesting ingredients that mixologists are using to imbue their drinks with effervescence and panache. So put down the siphon bottle and consider your options.
- The Classic Sparkler. Champagne-laced cocktails are light, effervescent and exceptionally delicious. For example, the World Bar in Manhattan promotes a classy signature dubbed the World CoCktail.
It's concocted with Remy Martin X.O. Cognac, white grape juice, bitters and Pineau des Charentes. The drink is hand-shaken, strained into a chilled glass and filled with Veuve Clicquot Champagne.
At Harry Denton's Starlight Room in San Francisco, one of the headline attractions is a sensational specialty drink called Drinking the Stars, a luxurious combination of Dom Perignon Champagne and 1979 Chateau Ravignan Bas Armagnac that has been infused with Madagascar vanilla, black raisins and an orange.
The Flirtini at Manhattan's Stone Rose Lounge pairs Grey Goose L'Orange Vodka, pineapple juice and Champagne, while the French 59 at Brasserie Jo in Chicago is made with Tanqueray Gin, Massenez Creme de Gingembre liqueur, fresh lemon sour mix and a fill of Cremant d'Alsace Brut. The Platinum Apricot Bellini is a specialty cocktail at Rosemary's Restaurant in Las Vegas. It's a sensational cocktail concocted using Patron Gran Platinum Tequila, apricot puree and J Sparkling Brut from Jordan Vineyards.
- Exotic Sparklers. Although celebrated, Champagne is not the only variety of sparkling wine that can be used in the construction of this style of cocktail. What's important to note is that when you change the flavor and character of the sparkling wine in a cocktail, the resulting cocktail is creatively altered as well.
American sparkling wines have steadily increased in renown and popularity. These wines are made from premium varietal grapes in a similar manner to Champagne. Also popular is Prosecco, a delicious sparkling wine made north of Venice in the Veneto region of Italy.
Brasserie Jo in Chicago serves a cocktail dubbed the Apple Sour, which is made with Daron Calvados and Bel Normande Sparkling Cider, while their cocktail April in Paris is finished with Klipfel Cremant d'Alsace Brut. Another of the signature drinks at the World Bar is the Sake Blossom, which is finished with Gekkeikan Sparkling Sake. Lastly, the Mosaic Restaurant in Scottsdale, AZ promotes a specialty called the Bull, a cocktail made with Absolut Kurant, Chambord and sparkling Shiraz.
- Ginger Brews. Ginger beers are a non-alcohol fermented brew flavored principally with ginger, lemon and sugar. They are also gloriously effervescent and a delight to use in preparing cocktails. Meet Me In Paradise is a specialty of Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in Chicago. A variation of the Mojito, the drink is made with muddled orange slice, mint leaves, orange bitters, Bacardi O Rum, lemonade and a generous fill with ginger beer. At Tommy's Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco, the Yerba Buena is a popular signature drink featuring muddled mint leaves, lime juice, falernum, Corazon Silver Tequila and topped with Stewart's Ginger Beer.
- The Few, The Proud. Few carbonated beverages have more contemporary appeal than energized Red Bull, making it frequently relied on behind the bar to give a cocktail a shot of flavor and effervescence. Hard ciders, sparkling lemonades ales, lagers and ales are all highly advantageous featured in cocktails. Salud!
Robert Plotkin is a judge at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the author of numerous books including the 5th edition of The Bartender's Companion: The Original Guide to American Cocktails and Drinks.
TORANI/ R. TORRE & CO.
Hello Carb: Bubbly Beverage Recipes
FIZZ FACTOR: Quality effervescence adds a new dimension to your specialty cocktails.
A specialty of Bookmarks, Library Hotel, NYC, created by Jonathan Pogash. Yield: 1 serving.
10-12 fresh blueberries
1 tsp. white sugar
splash of fresh lime juice
splash of simple syrup
1 âfl„4 oz. Grand Marnier
3 oz. Moet & Chandon Champagne
for garnish, 3 blueberries
Into an iced mixing glass, pour blueberries, white sugar, lime juice and simple syrup. Muddle contents and add ice. Add Grand Marnier and Champagne. Serve in a Champagne glass, chilled. Garnish with 3 blueberries on a pick
Grande Champagne Cocktail
A specialty of Brasserie Jo, created by David Johnston.Yield: 1 serving.
1 oz. Chateau de Montifaud VSOP Cognac
1 oz. Cointreau
1 âfl„2 oz. Massenez CrÃ¨me de Cassis
3-4 drops Fee Bros. Orange Bitters
2 oz. Cremand dâfi™Alsace Brut
Into an iced mixing glass, pour all ingredients except Brut. Stir ingredients and strain. Fill with Brut. Serve in a house specialty glass, chilled.
A specialty of Tommy's Mexican Restaurant. Created by Jacques Bezuidenhout. Yield: 1 serving.
8-10 mint leaves
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1 âfl„2 oz. falernum
2 oz. Corazon Silver Tequila
as needed, Stewartâfi™s Ginger Beer
for garnish, lime wedge and mint sprig
In a chilled highball glass, build the drink by adding mint leaves, fresh lime juice and falernum. Muddle contents and add ice. Add tequila, stir ingredients and strain. Top with ginger beer and garnish with lime wedge and mint sprig.
A specialty of Mosaic Restaurant. Created by Stephanie Kozicki, Matt Rinn. Yield: 1 serving.
2 oz. Absolut Kurant Vodka
1 âfl„4 oz. Chambord
1 oz. Sparkling Shiraz
for garnish, lemon twist
Pour vodka and Chambord into an iced mixing glass. Shake and strain. Add Sparkling Shiraz. Serve in a chilled cocktail glass, garnished with a lemon twist.
A specialty of Cyrus Restaurant. Created by Scott Beattie. Yield: 1 serving.
1 oz. Hangar One Straight Vodka
1 âfl„2 oz. Calvados Apple Brandy
1 âfl„2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 oz. ginger-aapple juice
as needed, sparkling apple juice
for garnish, baked apple chip
Into an iced mixing glass, pour vodka, apple brandy, fresh lemon juice and ginger-apple juice. Shake and strain. Top with sparkling apple juice. Served in a chilled cocktail glass garnished with a baked apple chip.
A specialty of 33 Restaurant & Lounge, Boston, created by Ari Bialikamien. Yield: 1 serving.
1 oz. Wet by Beefeater
1 âfl„2 oz. peach nectar
splash of fresh lemon juice
for garnish, lemon twist
as needed for fill, Prosecco Sparkling Wine
In a chilled Champagne glass, build the drink by adding Wet by Beefeater, peach nectar and a splash of lemon juice. Fill with Prosecco Sparkling Wine and garnish with a lemon twist