This review was prepared by Kim of Assaporando la Vita.
Elegant and classy, simple yet complex. The Bubbly Bar: Champagne and Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion by Maria C. Hunt is a perfect little cocktail book to keep around the house for turning an everyday meal into something a little more elegant, or making a laid back get-together seem like an occasion to celebrate.
I have to admit that, even though I love wine and enjoy a glass or two on occasion, I have never really explored the bubbly world of champagne and sparkling wine. This book does an excellent job of introducing the novice into a whole new world of bubbly cocktail entertainment.
From the beginning, Hunt makes this book personal by inviting the reader to share her experiences with bubbly beverages. She then helps the novice understand key terms (such as defining what a “jigger” is), outlines how to make a good cocktail and what specific characteristics a good cocktail should exhibit. She does also point out that the recipes in the book should be used as general guidelines and encourages the reader to modify the recipes to suit their taste. So if you want an extra shot of vodka in that Lemon Ice, go for it. Now that’s my kind of book!
The recipe sections are easy to tackle, and believe it or not, it took less than half a day to read the whole thing cover to cover. I truly enjoyed the personal introduction to each section and the history or introduction to each cocktail recipe gives the reader an idea of what the cocktail is all about and how or why it was created. And probably the best thing about any good cookbook, at least in my opinion, is that every recipe is accompanied by a PICTURE!!!!! And of course, each picture is absolutely tantalizing and delicious.
After reading through all the recipes I had a hard time figuring out which drinks to make but quickly realized that I had to keep my ingredients to a minimum for 2 reasons: 1.) financial funds were low so the recipes I chose had to be either economically friendly or the recipes all had to share common ingredients to keep cost low and 2.) availability of ingredients was sometimes hard to come by (the nearest grocery store to me isn’t exactly the best I’ve ever been to when it comes to quality and availability of certain items).
Regardless, I tried 3 recipes and loved each one of them. Sadly, my pictures of my creations don’t even compare to those found in the book and in my opinion, they don’t showcase the delightful taste that each one had to offer.
The first recipe I decided to try is considered a classic and I’ve always wanted to try one: the Bellini. Simple and elegant, this drink features white peaches accompanied by bubbly Prosecco. When making any cocktail well, the key is to always have fresh ingredients on hand. I tried this drink twice: once with frozen yellow peaches because the store nearest to me didn’t have any, and the second time with fresh white peaches that I had to make a 30 minute drive to get. In the end, the 30 minute drive was well worth it, especially after trying the drink with the frozen yellow peaches. Hunt wasn’t kidding when she says that the key to a great cocktail is to have fresh ingredients on hand! The white peaches added a subtle sweetness to the Prosecco that made this elegant cocktail perfect for just relaxing on the porch on a sunny day. My only complaint is with myself on this drink…the puree I made wasn’t smooth enough so I ended up with a chucky pulp that I had to eat with a spoon towards the end. But the important thing is…it tasted wonderful!
The second cocktail I enjoyed was the Lemon Ice. This drink is featured in the Dessert section and is a wonderful finish to any meal. Vodka, Prosecco, and Lemon Sorbet make up this delightful treat. Sprinkle with some mint and you have a deliciously sweet, yet light dessert that even acts as a digestif (for those heavier meals you wish you hadn’t eaten so much of). I tried this one because I’ve never really eaten a lot of fresh mint and thought this would give me a reason to try it.
Other dessert cocktails I’d love to try include her Pineapple Push-ups, Champagne Snow Cones, and Grapefruit Vanilla Granita. Those will be for another day I suppose…
The last cocktail, which happens to be my favorite out of the three, is the Pattaya. The passion fruit syrup was a bit hard to come by, but thankfully Hunt provides a list of resources for hard to find ingredients. This drink is passion fruit syrup, Brut champagne and Blackberry liqueur. I had to make a substitution this time that I couldn’t fix. I had to use Raspberry liqueur instead of Blackberry because, after driving around New Orleans and the surrounding suburbs, I couldn’t find any. So Raspberry it was and it worked, at least in my mind, just as well. I tried this cocktail because it involved learning a new technique called “floating”. This is how you make layered drinks. After pouring the Brut into the glass, the technique calls for slowly pouring the liqueur down the back of an upturned spoon touching the inside of the glass. The liqueur pools at the bottom of the glass forming a purple layer under the Brut. The picture in the book was pretty and the technique sounded simple. Note I said “sounded” simple. In order to really master this technique I would recommend getting a pour spout for the liqueur. I didn’t have one and used my jigger. This ended in disaster…raspberry liqueur all over my table and what made it into the glass thoroughly mixed into the Brut. Regardless, the cocktail was wonderfully tasty.
Overall, a great little book. Especially since Hunt provides an economically friendly list of champagnes and sparkling wines at the back of the book for those who don’t want to spend a fortune on a bottle of Dom. To those seeking relaxing bubbly cocktails good for any occasion, Cheers!