Why so tired, people? A little worn out from partying with us last night(hmm… maybe it’s just me)? Well, it’s time to celebrate again! I hope most of you have a three-day weekend to look forward to, with fireworks and grilling and sun-soaking. My advice? Add some bubbles.
A lot of people think champagne is just for snobs. Those people are wrong. WRONG. But I understand. The whole “blow it all on table service and a bottle of Cristal” movement killed simple enjoyment of champagne for many people. Just forget about those excess junkies. Champagne isn’t so very different from beer. I mean, they both have bubbles, right? Ok, perhaps I’m pushing it here but I firmly believe that champagne should be enjoyed all the time, and especially in the summer. There’s something about a chill glass of the fizz that reminds me to slow down, relax and smile.
You can enjoy the bubbly all over town. But I have a few spots that pop to mind when I want to pop the cork. And I’m happy to share a little tour of where I would go right now to inbibe. Tops on the list currently? Belga Cafe and its divine basil champagne cocktail.
Belga’s marble bar is a great place to branch out and experience some simple champagne cocktails like peach or even violet, but really the basil is the best. Your first whiff of that distinct herbal scent leads you to expect something almost, well, pesto-y, but the actual sip is sweet and light. It’s just basic champagne and a basil simple syrup, but it’s truly addicting for a slow Sunday brunch.
If you want a crash course in the different houses and their individual styles, go to Proof. It’s famous in DC for the champagne cart, a no pressure way to learn, allowing you to focus on discovering what you like, not what you think you are supposed to like. The menu is even divided into regions, so get all educational while you get happily buzzed! They have my all-time favorite, Bollinger, rich and heady (not that I can afford it, but… sigh… the best… funnily enough do you know what goes incredibly well paired with Bollinger? Pizza!). Try Bruno Paillard’s delightful rosé champagne too.
Looking for a romantic setting for a champagne date? Tabaq‘s rooftop bar has that sexy glow from candles and the night sky. Food may be a downer here but the bubbly flows well in this setting. Look up, get dizzy, fall in love. Down the street you can squeeze into Al Crostino’s tiny bar and have Italy’s version of sparkling wine, prosecco, in a setting rather like what you’d get in Venice – small, noisy, convivial. Some people turn their noses up at prosecco. That’s usually because they’ve had a substandard variety, so learn about the good stuff.
(While we’re on the subject of other countries interpretations of sparkling wine – I haven’t gotten into the whole champagne/sparkling wine nomenclature – if you want to get smart on this, mark July 22 on your calendar for Giramondo’s crash course at the French Embassy.)
Bistrot Lepic’s quiet upstairs wine bar (one of the city’s first before everyone jumped on that bandwagon) has a great selection beyond the usual suspects of producers you may not have tried, like Deutz with its delicately mineral taste, and a few rosé champagnes which are especially nice in the summer. Pretend you’re in Provence.
Get all down-home and have a glass of Perrier-Jouët at Eatonville‘s bar. Better yet, sip it while lulling yourself in one of the rocking chairs. Tangent – when I was young and wild I fantasized about getting the Art Nouveau design of the Perrier-Jouët flowers tattooed somewhere on my lily white person. Thankfully, I resisted. But I still think “the PJ” has the tiniest bubbles of them all.
I hope this sparks you to head out this weekend and let the bubbly tickle your nose. Share any other champagne favorites in the comments, and above all, have fun!
1. See also.
2. Any mention of drinking Champagne just because is remiss if it leaves out a recipe for the French 75, named after an artillery cannon, and which the estimable Harry Craddock noted (in the Savoy Cocktail Book) “hits with remarkable precision.” Gary Regan‘s recipe is:
1/2 teaspoon simple syrup
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce gin
4 ounces chilled champagne
Build in the order given in a collins glass filled with crushed ice. Stir briefly.
It is a fine, fine drink.
Thank you for the Esquire link, fedward. I hadn’t seen that and am really heartened to see others feel the same way about drinking champagne “just because.”
As for being remiss, well, no one has ever accused me of being exhaustive… I’m simply a dilettante, I suppose. But yes, the French 75 is a lovely classic champagne cocktail.