From holiday toasts to everyday imbibing, sparkling wine has become Chicagoans’ trendiest tipple.
Chicago is the second-largest city in America for Champagne consumption—and local mixologists are highlighting the bubbly in innovative new cocktails.
If you’re toasting the holidays this year in Chicago, it’s a safe bet you’ll do so with a Champagne flute in your hand. With Chicago as the second-largest city for Champagne consumption and Illinois the second-largest state, we’re serious about our bubbles. Local mixologists are getting into the act, too, floating it atop cocktails and subbing it for standard mixers in classic drinks. Bubbly—whether Prosecco, cava, Champagne, or good old American sparkling wine—is officially on-trend.
Of course, bubbly is a natural complement to celebrations, says Shaw’s Crab House (21 E. Hubbard St., 312-527-2722) manager Nate Redner. “Whether it’s the holidays, a birthday, or anniversary, Champagne is always a proper way to kick it off.” But these days, Chicagoans who are passionate about Champagne embrace it year-round. As Michael Pickering, beverage director at The Langham Chicago (330 N. Wabash Ave., 312-923-9988), explains, “There is always a reason to drink bubbles. And this time of year, there are more reasons to celebrate—whether it be a company party or getting together with family during the holidays.” Not to mention, adds Pickering, Champagne is versatile in pairing with many types of food. “The high acid [in it makes it] a great food wine... It’s also a palate cleanser; a glass of sparkling [resets] the palate and lets you enjoy dessert.”
Beyond food pairings, local mixologists are showcasing bubbles in cocktails made especially for the holiday season. Pickering offers the Eighteen Sixty Five, which features Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial along with cognac and elderflower liqueur, noting, “Champagne lifts and brightens the other ingredients, while the elderflower from the St-Germain adds a touch of sweetness as well as a floral note.” At Shaw’s, Redner offers The Belle Rose: vodka, peach liqueur, orange preserves, and lemon juice, topped with bubbles. And at Paris Club Bistro & Bar (59 W. Hubbard St., 312-595-0800), mixologist Paul Mc-Gee has adapted the Serendipity cocktail served at Bar Hemingway at the Ritz Hotel in Paris; his version stars Perrier Jouët and substitutes Pommeau de Normandie for the original drink’s apple juice. Says the high-profile bartender—also known for his tiki drinks at local hot spot Three Dots and a Dash (435 N. Clark St., 312-610-4220)—“It’s a refreshing, sparkling drink that has a nice, crisp apple flavor with a hint of mint.”