How To Give Classic Cocktails An Upgrade With Champagne, According To A Mixologist

There's a fine balance in mixology between innovation and reliability. With so many modern classic cocktail recipes out there, it can be easy to settle into the familiar and never branch out. But even though those drinks became classics for a reason, we shouldn't lose sight of the creative curiosity that made those drinks possible in the first place. When we had the chance to talk to Cody Goldstein (award-winning mixologist, author, and founder of Brooklyn-based hospitality group Muddling Memories) about this topic, he had some interesting ideas about using champagne.

"Champagne is a great addition to classic cocktails that you may not otherwise think of incorporating," Goldstein told us. "For instance, a Cosmo is a fun classic that leans more into the sweet and sour side. When you add in bubbles, say brut champagne, the drink is still familiar, but the way you enjoy it is a new experience." Depending on the cocktail you're experimenting with, you'll want to keep in mind the different types of champagne. A brut will produce a different result than a demi-sec, so plan accordingly.

"The same goes for a Manhattan, which is normally very spiritus and meant to be sipped. With the inclusion of a sparkling wine, the drink becomes much drier and brings out the subtle fruit notes," Goldstein said. And if you're looking for a way to spice up champagne without the addition of liquor, Muddling Memories has "crafted some deliciously unique syrups that go perfectly with a great glass of champagne."

Master of bubbles

The exact mechanics of adding champagne to a classic cocktail are going to vary depending on the drink, but we can look at some examples to get a sense of how this works. Starting with Goldstein's Cosmo idea, you likely won't substitute any ingredients: Simply add a splash of champagne to the drink once it's finished to achieve the sparkle you're looking for.

There are other ways of doing this though. For inspiration, it's worth taking a look at the various classic cocktails that already include sparkling wine. The negroni sbagliato is a great jumping-off point since it's a champagne twist on the spirit-forward classic. A negroni includes gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. For a negroni sbagliato, you substitute the gin for champagne, so we can assume that swapping out the liquor for sparkling wine is a viable option — though it might work better for clear spirits like gin or vodka as opposed to whiskey or dark rum.

Experimentation is a core feature of mixology, so don't be afraid to make a subpar drink here or there in pursuit of your next favorite cocktail. Add a splash of champagne as a float on top of a finished cocktail, substitute the primary spirit for some bubbly, or swap a secondary ingredient like dry vermouth out for champagne. If it sounds interesting, it's worth a try. Prosecco and other sparkling wines will work just as well, so feel free to substitute with those.