A Toast To New
“I am at once both a blasphemous heathen and a purist snob,” I said to my housemate as I cooked a dinner of Croque Madames. My sins? Unable to find gruyère, I had substituted a different, white, melty cheese. In favor of laziness, I had opted out of making a béchamel. And finally, out of sheer arrogance, I had cooked my eggs over easy simply because I dislike fried. My obstinance? No matter the ingredients, I insisted the meal be cooked to perfection.
Champagne is a particular wine with a long-standing history and tradition. A magical liquid, its lightness can celebrate everything from our greatest victories to our weekday blues. Reading articles in Vogue as a child, I was always so easily charmed by the latest it-girl, not only thanks to her fabulous wardrobe, but for her lively quirks; she wore t-shirts under her ball gowns, named her pets after ex-boyfriends, piled classic novels everywhere... and she always had a bottle of champagne in her refrigerator, ‘because you never know...’
As an adult, I know the rules of Champagne well enough to know you should never keep Champagne in the refrigerator, lest you risk over chilling it. (If you’re wondering: keep your bottles in a dark, closed area with consistent temperature. When you know you’ll want to drink it, refrigerate a few hours and let sit at room temp about ten minutes before opening. For parties, an ice-bucket will do for a quick chill, and for unexpected occasions, keep a bottle of gin in the freezer and serve your Champagne as a French 75.) But I also know that things like temperature and alcohol are a fickle thing, and everyone has their preference.
Thanks to wine-drinking heathens like myself the world over, we now have new rules, and broken rules, and before that even, thanks to wine-drinking, rule-breaking heathens of the past, we today have countless methods of drinking “champagne”* without actually drinking Champagne. I’ve always found the complexity and changeability of such an iconic entity fascinating, and better than the unapproachable it-girls of the past, it now harkens the spirit of friends, near and far.
For an introductory, celebratory Attic cocktail I thought of many, but particularly the French 75. Created for soldiers during the First World War, it’s classic and tributary even after all these years. But we are soldiers of a different breed, and if I can be irreverent one last time, I will simply take the 75’s bones and suggest the following changes. I call it The Eight:
30ml / 1 oz dry gin
30ml /1 oz St. Germain
60ml / 2 oz rose lemonade
60ml / 2 oz Champagne or sparkling wine of your choice
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake gin, liqueur, and lemonade. Strain into a chilled glass and top with Champagne.
(Makes two small glasses or one large)
A time of change and rule-breaking is upon us, in all areas of our lives. If the Champagne of times past was an impossibly expensive bottle served with oysters and caviar, the Champagne of today is a reasonably priced, so-long-as-it’s-mèthode-traditionelle** bottle served with a fried sandwich and chips. I’ll take that any day.
*The laws and steps of sparkling wine production are one of my favorite pieces of knowledge in the world. I could talk about it for ages, but this is not that article. **Unless we want Prosecco, in which case that’s a different process, and in which case see previous note.