There is something inherently luxurious about Champagne. Whether it’s paired with a decadent food, like oysters or caviar, or served with strawberries as a sexy Valentine’s Day treat, the fizzy wine has a way of being elusive and elitist. And now, drinkers are breaking that ideal, sipping the wine–and its sparkling cousins–for just about any reason at all.
New Year’s Eve, bottles of sparkling beverages are being popped more often nowadays. From prosecco and cava to the calling card of France, sales of bubbly keep growing, as lower-priced options are hitting the market and more judicious drinkers are sipping selections more often, from a mimosa with brunch to starting a meal with a toast.Once reserved for special occasions and
“Champagne bars have a celebratory look and feel. Champagne is also quite versatile, allowing guests to enjoy it with casual foods all the way to a 12-course meal,” says Myka Meier, who co-founded The Plaza’s Etiquette program at the New York, N.Y. based hotel which boasts a Champagne bar.
We spoke to Meier, as well as Bronson van Wyck, founder of global environmental design and event production firms Van Wyck & Van Wyck and Workshop, about what you’ll need to take your in-home Champagne bar from a morning brunch to an evening cocktail party and everything in between.
Start with the Champagne
Standing in an aisle trying to figure out what’s the best Champagne to pair with all of the juices, garnishes, and food may be enough to drive anyone to drink. But, explains van Wyck, there is one type of Champagne that seems to work across the board.
“A dry brut Champagne should always be your go-to when you’re at the liquor store since the classic flavor transitions seamlessly from day to night. It’s definitely a drink that works well for any occasion,” he says.
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But, he says, there is another option that, while it might not be top-of-mind during every season of the year, is one that is unexpectedly versatile with whatever you may be serving.
“Although everyone associates rosé with the summer, you can actually drink rosé Champagne all year long since it has a real depth of flavor and high acidity which makes it pair well with almost anything. Perfect for winter brunches or Christmas morning,” he explains.
Mix It Up
Champagne is delicious on its own, but having a variety of juices and garnishes to give guests options for both sipping and Instagramming will take your Champagne bar to the next level.
“For mixers, think St. Germain, orange juice, elderflower liqueur, and have colorful fruit garnishes such as strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, and raspberries at the ready for guests,” says Meier.
Van Wyck notes that switching up flavors based on season, too, makes for unexpected flavor profiles that your guests will welcome and even want to re-create at home.
“Substituting apple cider for orange juice is a fun holiday twist on a standard mimosa, and mixing Champagne with bourbon and fresh apple purée will create a wonderful winter Bellini,” he says.
He also notes that creating a Champagne punch brings guests even more options, especially when mixed with stronger liquors for those who come to the party to…well…party.
“Use Cognac or brandy to make big batches of Champagne cocktails before everyone arrives. Getting everything ready in advance will make sure that you’re mixing with guests as opposed to mixing for them,” he says.
Get the Right Glassware
The right glassware adds a touch of elegance to any Champagne bar, whether for a morning event or evening dinner party. While Meier says that Champagne flutes are traditional and help create the right atmosphere, van Wyck says that he prefers to use a glass with a wider rim, like a white wine glass.
“Flutes are not the best way to serve Champagne. They’re too narrow. A wider rim opens the aromas of the wine more completely and enhances the flavor way more than a flute,” he says.
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These glasses are like a hybrid of the two, designed to combine the effects of good bubble circulation and optimal air contact.
Bring High Style to the Décor
While you may get the urge to create an over-the-top Champagne bar with lots of decorations and accessories, it’s an urge that van Wyck suggests you resist. Overdoing the bar has the opposite effect of what you think. Not only does it make the entire set up seem messy and unorganized, it also makes it hard for guests to find what they want, prolonging their time with an empty glass.
“Don’t overthink your décor. A great bar is one where you don’t have to wait for your drink. No matter what you do, make getting the alcohol into your guests’ hands the priority. Make sure your mixers and garnishes are easy to access and serve them in festive bowls,” van Wyck says.
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