This week we’re making a classic drink from the golden age of cocktails taken from a new book called The Cocktail Cabinet by Zoe Burgess. It’s the Champagne Cocktail!

‘Tis the season for drinks books, we’ve had some corkers landing on our table recently including a new Dave Broom called A Sense of Place which Dr Nick Morgan will be covering on the blog shortly. But first, there’s The Cocktail Cabinet by Zoe Burgess to look at.

We’re running her recipe for the classic Champagne Cocktail below but first a bit about the book and Burgess. She brings a wider perspective to the world of drinks having worked for a chocolatier, chefs such as Heston Blumenthal, sensory scientist Charles Spence, and chemist Andrea Sella. But don’t worry, she has spent plenty of time behind the bar most notably at East London’s Untitled and now has her own consultancy called Atelier Pip.

Zoe Burgess - author of The Cocktail Cabinet. London, September

Zoe Burgess, bartender and author of the Cocktail Cabinet

The art, science and pleasure of mixing the perfect drink

The subtitle of the book is a good explanation for what this book is about: ‘The art, science and pleasure of mixing the perfect drink.’ What she’s doing in The Cocktail Cabinet is bringing her scientific training to making cocktails at home. That doesn’t mean she overcomplicates things. Instead, Burgess explains clearly not only what to do but why you should do it. The first half of the book looks at science, techniques, equipment, and ingredients, whereas the second contains recipes. 

She writes in the introduction: “I won’t be focusing on the history of certain cocktails and the most ‘authentic’ recipes, but their structure and flavour profiles, breaking them down into building blocks so that you can understand how an ingredient works and why a finished cocktail tastes so good.” A great example of this is her Champagne Cocktail. The recipe is absolutely classic – there’s no hydrated bananas or clarified lemon juice – it’s her explanation that makes it so essential. 

Why you must use a sugar cube in a Champagne cocktail

She writes: “This is an iconic cocktail with a great depth of flavour, yet it remains approachable to guests. Though a little stronger in spirit, we’ve retained balance with the warm flavour profile of all the ingredients involved. The spices from the Angostura bitters complement the Cognac’s woody profile and act as a bridge between the Cognac and Champagne…. What’s great about this drink is that the aroma delivery system has changed and this is because of the sugar cube. The sugar cube encourages and becomes the starting point for the bubbles, and this is important. Each bubble carried with it the aroma of bitters, making this cocktail a great example of the impact aroma has on the drinking experience. It’s therefore important you stick with sugar cubes – sugar syrup would taste fine, but the aromatic of the drink will be reduced.”

Now there’s someone who has really thought about the Champagne Cocktail!


How to make a Champagne Cocktail

Leaving the sugar cube in means that the last sip will be extremely strong and sweet. On the next page, Burgess comes up with a nice twist on the classic Champagne cocktail using oloroso sherry instead of Cognac to make it lighter but somehow richer. Whichever version you’re making, it would look good served in an old-fashioned Champagne coupe but you could just use a flute.

15ml H by Hine VSOP Cognac
100ml Champagne like Jacquart Mosaique or a Cremant
6 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 white sugar cube

Place the sugar cube on a napkin and dash the bitters on to it. You want the cube soaked in bitters. Place the soaked sugar cube in the glass, add Cognac and top up with Champagne. 

The Cocktail Cabinet by Zoe Burgess with photography by Andre Ainsworth is published by Mitchell Beazley (£20).