The “first evolved cocktail,” according to cocktail historian David Wondrich, the Champagne Cocktail doesn’t need a lot of pizzaz to impress—it’s already a perfectly balanced mix of bitters, sugar, Champagne and a lemon twist. But if you happen to get bored of the classic, there are ways to mix things up without transforming it into an entirely different cocktail. Here, the best ways to upgrade the Champagne Cocktail.
Add Some Fresh Fruit
Add fruit juice to a Champagne Cocktail and you risk veering into Mimosa territory. Instead, drop some fresh fruit into the cocktail. Try cutting up some strawberries and freezing them into ice cubes, dropping in fresh berries, or garnishing the rim of the glass with seasonal fruit like a thinly-sliced apple wheel.
Garnish With Herbs and Citrus Zests
Subtly shift the flavor profile of the cocktail by replacing the lemon twist with different citrus peels, such as grapefruit or orange. Or, try dropping in a sprig of fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme for an aromatic garnish.
Double the Champagne With Champagne Ice Cubes
If you like your cocktails extra cold but find the idea of watery Champagne (rightfully) repulsive, freeze some Champagne in an ice cube tray ahead of time for boozy ice cubes. They’ll chill down your cocktail without diluting it.
Try New Bitters (or Make Your Own)
The Champagne Cocktail gets its complex flavor from an Angostura bitters-soaked sugar cube, but different flavored bitters will take the cocktail to new heights. Try using Peychaud’s bitters for a lighter, anise-tinged taste; orange bitters for a bright, citrusy flavor; lavender bitters for a gorgeous floral scent; or Bittermens ‘Elemakule Tiki bitters for a spicy, tropical take on the classic. Better yet, make your own aromatic bitters, customized to your personal tastes.
Try Different Sugar Cubes
While a white sugar cube is the go-to for an old-school Champagne Cocktail, flavored sugar cubes will effervesce more than just sweetness into your drink. For a richly sweet drink, use cinnamon sugar or honey-flavored cubes. Or, for a romantic twist, try dropping in heart-shaped sugar cubes.
Swap Out Sugar Cubes Entirely
Instead of using a sugar cube, opt for something a little more whimsical such as a shiny rock candy stick or a tiny cloud of cotton candy, which will magically dissolve instantly in the Champagne. You could also rim the glass in colored sugar for extra glam.
Make It Extra Boozy
For an extra spirited riff on a Champagne Cocktail, swap out the bitters for absinthe and float a half-ounce of Cognac on top. Also known as a Casino Cocktail, this potent take maintains the essence of the original but adds a bit of edge. The absinthe-soaked sugar cube gradually imparts an anise-flavor into the cocktail, while the Cognac float adds a spicy kick.