Many people celebrate winter holidays with a glass of bubbly, but what happens when the party’s over and they’re stuck with a bunch of open bottles? Beverage directors across the country are infusing, reducing or freezing flat bubbles.
Just Add Aromatics
At New York City’s Union Square Café, flat Champagne becomes a vermouth, showcased best in the restaurant’s House Martini.
“We have a very strong private-dining business,” says Beverage Manager Ryan Chavis. “Every now and then, we would have leftover Champagne from a party.”
In keeping with the restaurant’s mission to reduce waste, he allows the bottles to “rest” overnight until the carbonation subsides. He then infuses the wine and adds a neutral spirit so that it lasts several weeks (recipe below).
The end result is a blanc vermouth with apple and honey notes, which Chavis mixes with Neversink, a New York gin distilled from apples.
Hot, Cold or Re-fermented
At Los Angeles’s Bar Clacson, co-proprietor Eric Alperin brews a nuanced “Champagne syrup” to sweeten an Aperol Spritz variation that dissolves equal parts sugar and flat bubbly over gentle heat.
You can also freeze once-sparkling wine into ice cubes for sangria or highball-style cocktails. Be advised, however, they melt relatively quickly since there’s still some lingering alcohol.
Another option is to allow the flat wine to ferment into a rustic Champagne vinegar. Chavis has tried this to much success, too, and likes to macerate the vinegar with fresh fruit to make shrubs.
“Flat Champagne” Vermouth
This stovetop vermouth recipe can be adapted easily, depending on which botanicals you choose to flavor the vermouth. There’s no hard-and-fast rule. Chavis says, “Do it to taste.” He does, however, suggest a light hand on the spices, and especially the bittering agents.
Courtesy Ryan Chavis, beverage manager, Union Square Café, New York City
In doubled freezer bags, combine 2 bottles flat Champagne with 2 grams of cinnamon, coriander and/or cardamom; 5 grams orange or lemon peels; 1-2 grams bittering agents like gentian; 1 cup sugar; and about 1 cup vodka or brandy.
Bring pot of water to 130˚F. Add Champagne mixture. Infuse for 1 hour, massaging bags every 15 minutes to break down sugars.
Remove bags from heat. Strain and cool to room temperature. Transfer to bottles. Refrigerate for up to 6 weeks.