Let’s be honest: we’re tired of marketers who try to turn every celebration into an event necessitating the purchase of sparkling wine. Are we not wine drinkers every single day? Do we not drink sparkling wine whenever we damned well please, including — occasionally — at breakfast? Does this not imply that popping a cork on another bottle of sparkling wine isn’t really going to be anything special? Should we not infer that to make Valentine’s Day something more than just a marketing opportunity we should do something out-of-the-ordinary, perhaps even a little perverse?
So inferred, and as a result here are five things you can mix with sparkling wine that will make this Valentine’s Day different from the seemingly thousands of others you’ve endured in years passed.
Peach Juice — If you mix one part peach juice with two parts Prosecco, you will produce a Bellini. If that sounds girly to you, note that its gender identity is as ambiguous as that of its greatest proponent, amateur bullfighter and reputed cross-dresser Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway was tough enough not to care what anyone thought of his drinking habits. If you were to go up to him at Harry’s Bar to crack wise about his choice of beverage, you would likely hit the ground hard. Macho bona fides established, a Bellini is still a sweetly girlish drink that sets a certain indulgent mood that is, as Pogo said, fraught with opportunity.
Guinness Stout — That’s right, you heard me. Known as a Black Velvet, a 50-50 blend of Guinness and methode champenoise sparkling wine makes a mighty smooth drink. You will find advocates of adjusting the stout/sparkling wine proportions, with some using the sparkling wine more as a condiment than an ingredient, but I find a 50-50 blend about right, and prefer to use a slightly sweeter sparkling wine.
Red wine — Cold Duck, as blends of red and sparkling wines are popularly known, got a bad name when pre-mixed and bulk produced versions were marketed to under-aged drinkers back in the seventies and eighties. I, personally, have vomited Cold Duck more than once, but not since I graduated college. (Making a list of things I haven’t done since I graduated college would be an interesting exercise.) Pop culture regrets aside, Cold Duck got its start in Germany, where it was a morning-after means of perking up leftover wine from the night before. A 40-60 blend of fruity Zinfandel or Shiraz and a good-but-not-expensive sparkling wine renders a cold drink that is refreshing, unusual, and pretty — just like your VD companion.
Creme de Cassis — one part Creme de Cassis and five parts sparkling wine equal one Kir Royale. Some people prefer to use the black raspberry liqueur Chambord; some people are wrong. Another variation is to use Blue Curaçao, which creates a blue drink that tastes of orange. People who like that are dangerous and should be avoided.
Ice Wine — This one needs a name. Add an ounce of Canadian ice wine to a glass of Brut sparkling wine and you get…well, it’s a hell of a drink. Because it’s frozen, Canadian, and involves Brut, its name should perhaps allude to hockey violence: The Enforcer, Ten Minute Major, the Calgary Flame. Or maybe something recalling the fact that it starts sweet and ends tart: Child Actress, Best Date Ever, Girl Next Door. Yeah, that’s it: the Girl Next Door.
I don’t advocate the use of expensive sparkling wine for mixing, but you can’t bottom-feed on this either. The bad finish of bulk-produced sparklers isn’t what you’re going to want to have in your mouth when you move in for the kill. Gruet, from New Mexico, has some solid, reasonably priced wines that make dandy cocktails. Spanish Cava balances quality and price better than just about any other sparkling wine.