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Sam Stoppelmoor, the sommelier at Union Common, is a big fan of champagne cocktails, and he should know what he’s talking about. Named to Wine Spectator magazine’s list of “40 Under 40 Tastemakers” and one of only two certified advanced sommeliers in Nashville, Stoppelmoor extols the virtues of a nice sparkler.
“For me, champagne cocktails are the ideal aperitif. Not only do they invoke celebration and endow you with a sense of happiness, they also excite the taste buds in preparation for a good meal. They also have the ability to carry over into first courses of a meal,” he says.
In addition to managing the wine portfolio at Union Common, Stoppelmoor also works with the talented bar staff at the restaurant to develop unique drink recipes. There is always at least one champagne cocktail on the menu, and he enjoys experimenting with all sorts of sparkling wines to come up with new concoctions.“Segura Viudas Cava is generally my go-to for sparkling cocktails at home,” Stoppelmoor notes, with the aside, “when I’m not willing to shell out for actual champagne.”
“In my opinion, this is the best way to make really cheap sparkling wine taste really good. Make sure it is dry (brut) in style. For an added twist, try some different flavored bitters. Fee Brothers ‘decanter’ bitters are a personal favorite,” Stoppelmoor says.
Liberally apply angostura bitters to sugar cube (on a napkin for cleanliness), and deposit the sugar in a champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine, and express a lemon peel over the glass. Discard the peel; pour carefully. The sugar cube with bitters make the wine fizz faster.
¾ oz Calvados or apple brandy
½ oz Earl Grey syrup (see directions below)*
1 dropper Bitter Truth Apple Spice Bitters
“Apple and Earl Grey really complement each other, and they just happen to be two flavors that can occur in wine,” Stoppelmoor says. “The name comes from the treaty in which Normandy, where Calvados is produced, became part of France, where champagne is produced.”
* To make a tea syrup, brew 8 ounces of Earl Grey or peppermint tea with double the amount of tea leaves. Steep Earl Grey for 5 minutes; peppermint for 10. Combine with 8 ounces of white sugar and mix. Chill before using.
In a champagne flute, add the Calvados, Earl Grey syrup, and apple bitters. Gently stir with a straw or spoon as you slowly pour in the sparkling wine. Garnish with a lemon twist.
¾ oz Black Strap Rum
¼ oz Velvet Falernum
¼ oz fresh squeezed lime juice
½ oz peppermint tea syrup (see directions in previous recipe above)*
2-3 dashes lavender bitters
“All of these ingredients can be found in classic Tiki drinks, however, when combined in this manner [they] can emphasize the spice and herb aromas of the ingredients. A great interplay of freshness from the lime and peppermint against the black strap rum and velvet falernum really bring out earthy tones in the cocktail,” Stoppelmoor says.
In a champagne flute, add all ingredients and gently stir. Slowly pour over the champagne, and garnish with a long peppermint sprig. Alternatively, this drink can be served in a collins glass over crushed ice.