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The French Blush

A romantic cocktail for Valentine's Day

Matthew DeBord
Posted: February 13, 2003

 
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  Valentine's Day 2002  
 
 

Certain colleagues of mine over at Wine Spectator's sister publication, Cigar Aficionado, have accused me of being a shameless and unrepentant Francophile.

Of course, they're right. But if you're going to indulge your shameless and unrepentant Francophilia at any time during the year, why not on Valentine's Day? It's true that the French didn't invent love, but they did perfect it. Part of this had to be because they also invented Champagne, which is as indispensable on Feb. 14 as sultry lipstick and a dinner reservation.

Unfortunately, Champagne has not contributed to the current cocktail resurgence as effectively as I would like. True, there's nothing wrong with simply pouring Champagne on this romantic holiday. But I say, Why not shake things up a bit?

Champagne cocktails are already well-known: they generally involve Champagne and some sort of kicky flavoring, which can be supplied by anything from bitters and sugar to brandy. Champagne lovers tend to look down on them, preferring their bubbly … unimproved.

However, there is a type of Champagne cocktail in which the fizzy stuff is fortified with spirit, thus creating an effervescent drink in which the Champers is part of the medley, rather than the offended party. Esquire's dean of mixology, Dan Wondrich, tells the story of a particularly potent one, the French 75, on his magazine's Web site (it involves a lot of Champagne and a rather less, but still significant, volume of gin).

Me, I like my Valentine's Champagne cocktail to be as French as possible, so I favor one called the French Kiss -- renamed the French Blush, by me, because it's made with rosé Champagne, a neglected category of bubbly that the French drink all the time, but that Americans typically consider only on Valentine's Day. It also involves Lillet, the wonderful aperitif of Bordeaux. My recipe is based on one that I discovered at Mixology.com, which contains an impressive cocktail database. What I like about this one is that the vodka acts as a flavorless component, allowing the drink to be all about the French aspects.

THE FRENCH BLUSH

  • 1 ounce Vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Lillet
  • 3 ounces rosé Champagne

    Fill a cocktail shaker with crushed ice, vodka and Lillet. Shake well and strain into a tall Champagne flute or Collins glass. Add chilled Champagne. Garnish with a strawberry (or a lipstick trace).

    Note that the Champagne does not go into the shaker (that would make trouble for the bubbles). And don't worry about "wasting" good, or even just relatively good, rosé Champagne on this drink. Valentine's Day comes but once a year. Your blush before the inevitable kiss should be special.


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