Why You Should Toast With Sparkling-Wine Cocktails This Holiday Season

Plus, a farewell from our Libations columnist of four years.

The Porn Star Martini at 86 & Vine in Norwood
The Porn Star Martini at 86 & Vine, with sparkling crémant. Photo: Courtesy of 86 & Vine

After nearly four years of covering the diverse and ever-changing beverage landscape in New Jersey—and plenty of drinks—it’s time for a shift change. 

This will be my final Libations column, which calls for a toast. And what would a toast be without bubbly? 

While sparkling wine is a hallmark of celebrations, there’s never really a bad time for it. 

Of course, sparkling wines like champagne, prosecco and cava are perfectly fine on their own (preferably, poured into a regular wine glass, not a flute, which mutes the wine’s aromas). But if you happen to have any leftovers after throwing a holiday party this month, or if you want to take your mixology skills to the next level, the next best place for sparkling wine to be is in a cocktail. 

Perhaps the most widely known sparkling-wine cocktail is the Mimosa. But there is so much more to this fun and festive category than the ubiquitous brunch staple. Trust me. 

There are dozens of classic sparkling-wine cocktails to choose from—the Aperol Spritz, the French 75, and the Kir Royale are just a few—and for good reason. 

Topping off your cocktail with a splash of bubbly not only adds a lively fizz, but it also enhances the flavors of the other spirits and liqueurs in the glass without diluting them, as is the case when you add club soda to a drink. 

“Sparkling wine gives us both the alcohol component plus effervescence,” says Luigi Tarantino, beverage director for 86 & Vine, a liquor store in Norwood that is also part wine bar and part cocktail parlor. 

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At 86 & Vine, wine is incorporated into every cocktail—two of which feature sparkling wine. The Gin-and-Tonic-inspired 86 & Spritz features cucumber, lemon, mint, elderflower tonic and prosecco, and the Porn Star Martini is made with passion fruit purée, vodka, lime juice and sparkling crémant, a French sparkling wine.

When it comes to selecting a sparkling wine to use in cocktails, keep in mind that you don’t need the fanciest or most expensive bottle to make a delicious drink. While champagne may be regarded as one of the greatest sparkling wines in the world, other bubbles are better suited for mixing. In fact, some mixologists actually prefer to use other kinds of sparkling wines in cocktails.

For cocktails, Tarantino recommends using prosecco for a number of reasons, including factors like affordability and consistency. 

“Bubble structure in champagne is complex. Some champagnes have bigger bubbles, while smaller bubbles lend a different taste,” Tarantino says. “With prosecco, you know what you’re going to get every time. It’s a reliable sparkling wine that you can drink solo or add to a cocktail.”

If you happen to have any extra prosecco around, try making a Negroni Sbagliato, perhaps my favorite sparkling-wine cocktail. A variation on the classic Negroni, this cocktail calls for one part Campari and one part sweet vermouth, topped off with chilled prosecco (in place of gin) and an orange wedge. 

It’s a refreshing aperitivo that is also easy to scale up if you want to make a crowd-pleasing, big-batch version for a holiday party.   

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