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Try a Red Roo this Christmas. December 15, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. This past Saturday, I was reading an article in The Wall Street Journal called “The Tippling Point.” The article was about the rising popularity of Champagne cocktails, how they were breaking out of the “Mimosa brunch” category and turning up at parties and suppers.

According to the article, this was because good Champagnes were becoming so affordable that people could afford to use them in cocktails (unthinkable with expensive estate Champagnes), that other sparkling wines like Cava and sparkling rose and Asti and Prosecco were becoming available in dry versions that were even more affordable then Champagne and delicious in cocktails. They also pointed out that Champagne cocktails went well with any food, were very light on the stomach, and left you feeling refreshed the following day as opposed to hung over.

The article interviewed seasoned mixologists about their (and their patrons’) favorite Champagne cocktails. I noticed that, while the Champagne or its equivalent sparkling wine may have cost “only” $30 a bottle, there were bazillion uber-expensive or unavailable ingredients in the form of liqueurs or, say, fresh-squeezed Meyer lemons (and where will you get those?) or homemade simple syrup infused with 10 super-expensive, elusive spices and strained through God-knows-what after cooking? Geez. By the end of it all, you might as well just show up at the party with a bottle of Champagne.

What I did notice, however, was that the basic recipes for the various Champagne cocktails included liqueurs, bitters, and typically fruit and fruit liqueurs (strained). Reading that you have to shake and strain a cocktail is enough to make me break out in hives: Can’t you just pour it in the damned glass and drink it? But I digress.

My favorite liqueur is Campari, the beautiful red herbal bitter aperitif. Typically, I drink a splash of Campari with mandarin orange sparkling water and a splash of Key lime juice. But I was inspired by The Wall Street Journal article to invent a “Champagne cocktail” of my own, one that’s affordable, flavorful, and beautiful.

Bless our friend Ben, he’d recently surprised me with a bottle of Campari and a bottle of Pink Bubbles, a dry sparkling rose. It’s made by Yellowtail, whose symbol is the yellow-tailed kangaroo (thus the “Roo” in Red Roo). I find it delicious as is (chilled, of course), and you can get a bottle for $9.99 around here. Can’t beat that price! Campari will set you back a bit more, as in about $28.99 a bottle, but you use so little in a Red Roo that a single bottle will see you well into the New Year.

Using just a little Campari is key here: It’s bitter, sweet, and complex, and you want it to color and add some flavor notes to your Red Roo, not overpower it. Try a jigger in your wine glass to start with, then fill the glass with chilled Pink Bubbles. (Do not be put off by the too-cute name, this is good stuff, I promise.) The color should be a perfect Christmas red, and the flavor should be delicious, with a light texture and that luscious sparkly finish. If you find you have a taste for Campari, you can always up the amount you put in your Red Roo, but not to the point where you weigh it down or make it too sweet, please.

Unlike everyone in the article I read, I don’t happen to own a set of coupe glasses or Champagne flutes. I don’t have room for glassware that can only be used for one thing, and I have better things to do with my money. So I use plain old wineglasses for my Red Roos, and they look both beautiful and festive. And taste amazing. Try some this holiday season. Cheers!

Note: I thought up a complementary holiday “Champagne” cocktail to offer holiday guests, the Green Roo. You’d substitute Absinthe (“the green fairy”) for the Campari and Bubbles (Yellowtail’s sparkling white, also dry and quite good on its own) for the Pink Bubbles. I’d think a tray of these red and green sparkling cocktails would be an amazing kickoff to any holiday gathering. Assuming the Absinthe remained green. And clear.

Absinthe is an herbal aperitif like Campari, and it got a bad name after so many French artists died after hanging out in clubs and bars drinking it. It was considered the opium of its day. As a result, it was banned here until just recently, when someone finally figured out that it wasn’t the Absinthe per se, but drinking until their livers failed, that killed all those idiots.

Despite Absinthe’s reprieve, I can’t recommend the Green Roo, simply because I’ve never had Absinthe. And I have a bad feeling that I read somewhere that when you add it to a glass, it becomes cloudy, which would hardly enhance a sparkling cocktail, much less give it a green color. But then, why did they call it “the green fairy”? If anyone knows the answer to these mysteries, please let me know.

Meanwhile, enjoy your Red Roos!

‘Til next time,

Silence

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