A Champagne Cocktail Worthy of Happy Hour: Ile de France Special

I am a big fan of the champagne cocktail. For many years I would have said that there was no better way to drink champagne. Granted I didn't much like champagne, or any sparkling wine, for that matter. But my tastes have changed. Over time, I discovered other beverages that put bubbly to good use--and some of them I would opine, are far superior to the champagne cocktail. For example, the Morning Glory Cocktail, with necessary champagne substitution, the Seelbach, the Jimmie Roosevelt,and the Old Cuban all come to mind. I am also partial to a negroni sblagliato. But those all require more than just dousing a sugar cube in bitters and dropping it in a glass of champers. The champagne cocktail is simple and elegant. Like the Old-Fashioned, it is a drink I never get sick of. I mean sure, I could just drink a glass of sparkling wine, but I could also just drink a glass of whiskey. Time and place are important factors here. Just like certain circumstances call for a champagne over a champagne cocktail, certain circumstances require, a term I use loosely, a jigger of whiskey neat over an Old-Fashioned. And how weird to find ourselves back at that fuzzy place where craving becomes an issue.

A champagne cocktail is my go-to alcoholic beverage to accompany brunch. I know that the overwhelming majority tends to favor the mimosa. I also know some people who lean toward a Ramos Gin Fizz or a Brandy Milk Punch--and sometimes I like to lean with them. Their company is usually exuberant and filled with possibilities, though a mid-day nap might also be required. But as I am sure I have posted before, a nice champagne cocktail creates the illusion of luxury and relaxation--exactly what brunch should mean. The unhurried gorging of oneself over hours, belts and comfort be damned. The problem is that other than for this occasional indulgence, I never look to a champagne cocktail. For some reason, they have been limited to brunch only. Thank goodness for Charles Baker, though its no surprise that he is posthumously forcing me to expand my drinking horizons.

Perhaps the reason why I never have a champagne cocktail after about three p.m. is because I don't take it seriously as a cocktail. It is a rather light drink, considering that it is simply a mildly flavored glass of wine. I usually crave a little kick At least for me, I tend to favor cocktails with a bit more of a kick in the evening. That's what is so wonderful about almost all of the champagne cocktails in Baker: at least four out of five have a slug of brandy in them. And this doesn't only up the ante on the kick. A smooth richness of flavor comes through as well. As far as the Ile de France Special specifically, mingle the brandy with the usual suspects (sparkling wine, syrup and bitters) and a float of yellow chartreuse and you get a perfectly herbal beverage that totally is perfect as the sun is sinking down the sky.

Ile de France Special (as adapted)

1/2 teaspoon simple sugar
1/2 ounce cognac
3 1/2 ounces champagne
1 dash orange bitters
1/8 ounce (1 bar spoon) yellow chartreuse

Into a chilled cocktail glass or flute, add syrup, cognac, and bitters. Stir gently to incorporate. Top with Champagne. Carefully float yellow chartreuse.

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