By Mike Augustyniak

Every week, Mike Augustyniak picks a new cocktail recipe from a local mixologist. This week he’s getting a taste of the bubbly at Loews Hotel’s Releve Champagne lounge with their Cranberry French 75.

Cranberry French 75

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1.5 oz. gin (Plymouth gin, or another mild American-style gin is best)
¾ oz. unsweetened cranberry juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
Squeeze of lemon juice


Combine in shaker with ice; shake until very cold. Strain into cocktail glass.
Add a dash of orange bitters.
Top with sparkling wine (Chandon Brut Classic is recommended).
Garnish with fresh or dried cranberries and orange peel.


Taste Test

The French 75 is a classic Champagne cocktail that is easy to make, and this week’s recipe adds a holiday spin. Unsweetened cranberry juice (not cranberry juice cocktail) replaces some of the lemon juice in the original recipe preserving the tart taste of the drink, but also giving it a holiday hue.  Picking a mild gin, like the Plymouth gin used in the segment, means the sparkling wine drives the flavor.


The Double Shot

Sparkling wine has an image problem.

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Somewhere along the way it was relegated to wedding toasts and mimosas, and the backseats of chauffeured Rolls Royces. A lot of people think it’s expensive; only for the rich and only for special occasions.

In the 1990s table wine had the same reputation, with people reluctant to open a bottle on a random Wednesday night. A marketing effort on behalf of wine producers slowly rolled back wine’s snooty image.

Releve Champagne Lounge in Minneapolis is trying to do the same for sparkling wine by pairing sparkling wine with really accessible comfort, and fast, foods.

“Actually one of my favorite pairings is Champagne and fried chicken. It’s kind of an everyday thing,” Dan Springrose, an expert on sparkling wine and Restaurant Assistant Manager at Cosmos in the Loews Hotel Minneapolis, said.  “Blanc de Blancs Champagne, in particular, I really like with fried chicken. The bright acidity from the Chardonnay with the richness and the saltiness of the fried chicken — it’s a match made in heaven.”

If you’re looking for a low-cost option, Springrose says to try Francois Chidaine Montlouis Brut, at about $20 a bottle. If you have cash to spare, pick up a $200 bottle of Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs (2002).

Below are a few additional food-and-sparkling-wine pairings that Springrose recommended to me, including suggestions for budget bottles and break-the-bank bottles of wine. Cent’anni!

Scrambled Eggs: “OK, so I’m not recommending a glass of wine with breakfast before work, but maybe when you’re on vacation or serving eggs for dinner. I love eggs with sparkling wine. The custardy texture of eggs and egg dishes can be problematic with wine, but the bubbles in sparkling wine really break that up and the wine shines. Almost any sparkling wine works here, but I would shy away from anything too sweet.”  Try Segura Viudas Brut Cava for $12 a bottle, or Ruinart Brut Rose at $100 a bottle.

Chinese Take Out: “Sparkling wine is an excellent complement to Chinese cuisine and a break from the more traditional lager beer. I choose a bright, fruit-forward wine, sometimes with just a touch of sweetness. That fruitiness and touch of residual sugar helps to tame the heat. And bright acidity cuts through the richness.”  Freixenet Cordon Negro Extra Dry pairs well at $13 a bottle, or choose a 2004 bottle of Veuve Clicquot Rose Grand Dame for $250.

Classic Holiday Snacks (olives, almonds, cured meats): “These ubiquitous salty snacks at holiday occasions call out for a fruit-forward sparkling wine. When it comes to nuts, olives and cured meats, I think the Italians really shine.  Prosecco, with its creamy mousse and delicate fruitiness, is an Italian classic with antipasti.” Try a $14 bottle of Mionetto Prosecco Brut, or a $40 bottle of Grave di Stecca Brut; their “Rustico” Prosecco is also a treat at $18 a bottle.

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Releve Champagne Lounge
Thanksgiving Dinner to go, for 6-8 people, from Cosmos Restaurant

Mike Augustyniak