Occasion: French National Day (Storming of the Bastille and Fete de la Federation)
Date: 14th July 1789 and 14th July 1790
Welcome back guys to cocktails & culture, today we are taking a look at the huge historic meaning of Bastille Day for France and the whole of Europe, then celebrate the victory of humanity with a glass of Champagne and to top it all familiarise ourselves with a classic champagne cocktail which is called… The Classic Champagne Cocktail (creative isn`t it?!)! The 14th July in 1789 marks the beginning of the French Revolution that took place throughout the still feudalist country. Ruled by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette at the time, the tensions between the nobility, the Catholic Church and the Third Estate (common people) rose and the people of Paris being afraid of coming under fire by the Royal Army stormed the fortress-prison of Bastille in the hope of capturing some ammunition. As the violent events unfolded the monarchs fled the city and moved to their little house in Versailles and a few weeks later feudalism was abolished and the `Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen` was proclaimed. This document was a major influence on the following development of freedom and democracy throughout Europe.
Château de Versailles, the perfect place to hide
One whole year later in a lot more peaceful environment the now `free and equal` French nation celebrated the country`s unity at the Fete de la Federation. Organized by bishop Talleyrand and with the help of the citizens of Paris the celebrations concluded in General Lafayette and King Louis XVI himself taking their oath to the constitution on Champ de Mars. It has remained a huge day for the French people ever since and it is the continent`s oldest and largest military parade starting at the Champs Elysees and ending at the majestic Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Lots of people attend these large-scale public celebrations which is a great contrast to other countries where they may prefer to spend these days amongst family or in the nature. In 1979 French singer Jean Michel Jarre held a concert that attracted the largest ever outdoor crowd of that time which was clocked in at 1 million! (I am sensing some kind of rounding up but all my respect goes to the little French man counting all those people).
La Fête nationale, Paris going wild
Since we are about to celebrate, what better beverage to do it with than the one that has 49 million bubbles (I know… it would be one too many counting jokes) in a single bottle. Of course it is every high-end party`s must have and most popular alcoholic beverage, Champagne! If you have 350 spare bottles of it at home and don`t feel like drinking, just follow the great Marilyn Monroe who one night decided to fill up her bath tub with this rather expensive product. (That is what I call a proper `bubble bath`). On a more serious note Champagne (which btw has to be produced in the French region of Champagne, otherwise you can stick `Sparkling Wine` on your bottle) is almost exclusively made of black Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and white Chardonnay grapes or their mixture. It was discovered by accident when winemakers of the Northernmost French vineyards realised that due to the colder weather the autumn fermentation of grapes was interrupted and restarted again as spring came making their lovely wines sparkling. I can tell you they were not too happy about that. Years and years of trying to avoid making Champagne, plenty of blasted bottles and wastage later they finally realised that the end product is not even that bad after all.
Credit goes to Graperadio and Ruinart for giving a great insight on their work
Today Champagne is deliberately made with double fermentation, the second of which happening directly within the bottles with the addition of yeast and a little sugar (as years go by we prefer it more and more dry). Champagne as a brand went through a deliberate and brilliant marketing and advertising campaign by the biggest producers (Laurent-Perrier above all) in the beginning of the 20th century resulting in it becoming the drink of the rich and the wannabe rich, the beverage of celebrations and one of the great luxuries of the drink industry. If you decide to have a glass from a Champagne Coupe rather than a flute you have to know that specific glass was modelled after the left (!) breast of the aforementioned Marie Antoinette…
The Marie Antoinette Coupe, see what I mean?
Champagne cocktails are being extremely popular nowadays and bars are flooded with all kinds of Bellini and Kir Royale variations and some crazy innovative mixtures but for such a historic beverage I feel like I have to bring you a cocktail that has its own history, that is made with France`s other unique spirit, Cognac so here is your Classic Champagne Cocktail all the way from 1862. Santé!
25ml Hennessy VSOP
1 sugar cube
2-3 drops Angostura Bitters
90ml Ruinart Brut Champagne
Drop the sugar cube in a champagne flute
and put a few drops of bitters on it
Pour the Cognac on top
Top up with Champagne