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Sparkling cocktails for Christmas

Add a touch of glamour to your festive celebrations with our selection of classic and creative cocktails that are all easy to prepare at home.

Nothing says ‘celebration’ better than a glass of bubbles. From elegant vintage Champagne to fruity New World sparklers, there are plenty of options if you fancy popping the cork on a bottle of fizz. But if you want to take your festive drinks to the next level this Christmas, why not try mixing up a sparkling cocktail?

‘Sparkling cocktails are great at any time of the year, but Christmas evokes additional celebration,’ says leading hospitality consultant Anna Sebastian, who counts The Savoy hotel among her clients. You may not be able to offer your guests Savoy-style hospitality, but it’s surprisingly simple to create drinks with the wow factor at home. The Classic Champagne Cocktail is a case in point: if you can open a bottle, you can make this drink. No shaker required; simply drop a bitters-soaked sugar cube into the bottom of your glass, pour in Cognac and top with Champagne.

Classic mixes are a safe bet when it comes to creating crowd-pleasing drinks. But it’s also easy to put a festive twist on well-known recipes. Why not swap the peach purée of a summery Bellini for Christmassy cranberry, for example? As Decanter contributor Alice Lascelles notes in her latest book The Cocktail Edit, there are thousands of cocktails in the world, but most are in essence just twists on a handful of classic drinks.

‘It was this realisation that really unlocked cocktails for me,’ she says. ‘It got my nose out of the recipe book – and Google – and allowed me to mix more intuitively. And the whole point of making cocktails, after all, is that you bring something of yourself to the drink.’

Expert tips

Lascelles shares some of her sparkling cocktail recipes here, alongside a few easy classics and creative twists on classics. Whichever ones you decide to try, there are a few basic tips that will help you mix like a pro. First up: ice.

Baby, it may be cold outside, but that’s no excuse for your drinks to be warm and watery inside. Use hard blocks of ice straight from the freezer – not half-melted leftovers from the Champagne bucket – and properly fill your glasses, otherwise the ice melts too quickly and will dilute your drink.

‘Chilled glassware is important, too, as a room-temperature glass will warm up the chilled drink,’ says Sebastian. ‘Keep glassware in the freezer for as long as possible before serving the drink.’ You should also try to use the recommended style of glass. ‘The glassware will affect the bubbles in a sparkling wine, but can also affect the taste of the drink, making it it sweeter or more sharp, for example,’ explains Sebastian. ‘A rounder glass will increase the perception of sweetness, which is really interesting! Also, it is important to match the style of the drink with the right glassware for that finishing touch.’

Finally, which fizz should you use for your sparkling cocktails? ‘I find that Champagne always lifts the mood and creates a sense of occasion for any gathering or event,’ says Sebastian. ‘It depends what you like, but a classic non-vintage expression like Laurent-Perrier is a great Champagne to use. I also love blanc de blanc Champagne, as it’s really fresh and light – perfect for more subtly flavoured drinks.’

Whatever you choose, enjoy giving your festive celebrations some deliciously decadent sparkle this year…

Cranberry Bellini

Credit: Louise Haywood-Shiefer

This is a seasonal twist on the classic Bellini, which is made with peach purée. You can buy ready-made cranberry syrup (Monin Cranberry Syrup, £6.25/ 70cl Love Tiki). But it’s easy to make your own fruit syrup if you have fresh cranberries.

Put 200g of cranberries, 50g caster sugar and 150ml orange juice in a pan and
bring to the boil. Simmer for five minutes, then strain through a sieve and leave to cool. This will give about 200ml of purée, which will keep in the fridge for a week.

Glass Champagne flute
Garnish None
Method Pour the syrup into the bottom of a chilled Champagne flute. Slowly top with Prosecco or Champagne.

Ingredients 10ml cranberry syrup, 75ml Prosecco or Champagne.

Champagne Margarita

Credit: Louise Haywood-Shiefer

‘I can’t think of a combination more hedonistic than tequila and Champagne – and this one is wickedly good,’ says Lascelles. ‘It would be a great drink with which to kick off a party, or as a thirst-quenching punch – just lengthen with a bit of sparkling or still water and charge with lots of ice. For a more elegant version, serve in a coupe, undiluted, over a single ice cube.’

Glass Cocktail or rocks
Garnish Lime wheel
Method Shake the first three ingredients together and strain over ice. Top with sparkling wine.

Ingredients 50ml tequila, 25ml lime juice, 12.5ml sugar syrup, 50ml sparkling wine.

Classic Champagne Cocktail

Credit: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Dating back to at least the mid-1800s, this is both one of the oldest cocktail recipes and one of the most enduringly popular. It’s a great celebratory welcome drink for Christmas parties and super-easy to make. Use a VSOP Cognac, such as Courvoisier VSOP Exclusif.

Glass Chilled Champagne flute
Garnish None
Method Put the sugar cube on a spoon and drizzle it with the bitters until it’s fully coated. Drop the cube into the bottom of the glass, then pour the Cognac over it. Slowly add the Champagne to fill the glass. Twist the orange peel over the top of the glass to zest the orange oil around the rim, then discard the peel.

Ingredients 75ml Champagne, 10ml Cognac, 1 sugar cube, 1⁄4 tsp Angostura bitters, Strip of orange peel.

Air Mail

Credit: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

‘You could call this a sparkling Rum Sour, a Champagne Cocktail with a bit more sass to it, or a Rum Punch with the lift of a spritz,’ says Alice Lascelles. ‘Either way, it’s a gorgeous combination of pungent, rum-soaked fruit, sharp lime and tongue-tingling fizz. A great party drink.’

Glass Rocks
Garnish Mint sprig
Method Shake the first three ingredients together with ice. Strain over ice and top with sparkling wine, then stir.

Ingredients 30ml golden/dark rum, 15ml honey syrup, 10ml lime juice, 50ml sparkling wine

Champagne Apple

Credit: Louise Haywood-Shiefer

Created by the bar team at The Savoy’s Beaufort Bar, led by Juan Jose Orellano, for the bar’s reopening in September. If you’re creating it at home, use the best spirits you can – if you can’t get hold of red toffee apple syrup use caramel syrup instead. ‘We use Michter’s Rye and Courvoisier XO Cognac, to give a good base and structure to the drink,’ Anna Sebastian says. ‘Champagne-wise, we recommend Laurent-Perrier, as it pairs perfectly with the apple notes in the drink.’

Glass Coupe
Garnish None
Method Stir the first five ingredients together, pour into a coupe then top with the Champagne.

Ingredients 15ml Courvoisier, XO Cognac, 15ml Michter’s US*1 Kentucky Rye Whiskey, 10ml calvados 5ml red toffee apple syrup, 1 dash Angostura bitters Champagne to top.

With thanks to the Beaufort Bar at the Savoy and to Anna Sebastian for hosting this photoshoot thesavoylondon.com.

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