Champagne is a wonderful thing. It’s relatively healthy compared to other alcoholic calorie bombs (lookin’ at you, Long Island Iced Teas, which I do love, but only in moderation – or maybe ignorance is bliss?) It has that touch of class. It’s pretty. A few weeks ago a housemate of mine and I wanted to throw a pre-party for a bunch of friends, but realized we didn’t have the bank accounts to provide tons of booze. General free-f0r-all alcohol pot-lucks can be tricky as oftentimes what people bring doesn’t really add up to a cohesive drink. What would be fun and organized, but also cheap for everyone involved? The answer: champagne. For this lovely DIY Champagne Bar, guests can bring $5 bottles. You don’t need to roll fancy. By providing instructions for various drinks, you give your guests the chance to increase their bottle’s potential sixfold. Provide delicious syrups and mix-ins, and I guarantee it will be a success!
How it works. A DIY Champagne Bar takes the potluck spirit and infuses it into a classy, celebratory event that, like a fondue party, allows guests to get creative with materials and produce unique, individual concoctions. Have guests bring the basic ingredient – champagne – while you provide the rest. Offer directions, pretty glasses, and mix-ins so that guests can make their own champagne cocktails. This party does away with the burden of pricey hosting but offers party-goers the chance to increase their bottle’s potential sixfold. Everyone will enjoy experimenting with flavors and creating several different cocktails from one bottle of bubbly. Plus, compared to other types of booze, BYO “champagne” is relatively inexpensive – $5 bottles are welcome!
Prepare your ingredients. The recipes listed below are fairly simple, and the syrups you can do a few days before or that afternoon. For the lavender syrup you will need dried lavender, found in co-ops or specialty grocery stores.
Make basic simple syrup. Here’s what to do.
1 part water
1 part sugar
2-3 tablespoons flavoring (in this case, either dried lavender, vanilla extract, or diced raw ginger)
Bring all the ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan and reduce to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes. Sugar should be dissolved and the mixture will be slightly syrupy. For the lavender and ginger syrups, make sure to strain out any pieces before pouring into a serving container.
Little touches are important. Serve all of your mix-ins in accessible, easy to serve containers. Pomegranate seeds, lemon peels, and sugar cubes look perfect in bowls with little spoons. For the syrups, try standard salad dressing dispensers or coffee creamer containers that pour easily. Most stores have plastic champagne flutes that can be spiced up by tying a colorful ribbon around the stem. Make sure to have napkins on hand, and maybe even some cocktail snacks: nuts, bruschetta, chocolate – there are endless possibilities.
The set-up. You will need a table with one designated “start” area (this can be a long or circular table) where the glasses will be set-up. From there, line up your ingredients by drink, creating a buffet of sorts. Directions are important, so I encourage you to design little recipe placards on sturdy paper or laminated paper. Space out the placards and ingredients so there is enough room at each station.
Recipes. There are endless possibilities for champagne cocktails. These are some ideas for cocktails that use non-alcoholic mix-ins:
1. Classic Champagne Cocktail
1 cube sugar
Place sugar cube in bottom of flute. Soak with a few splashes of bitters. Fill flute to the top with champagne.
2. Pomegranate Fizz
Pour champagne into flute until almost full. Add two splashes of vanilla syrup. Garnish with a spoonful of pomegranate seeds.
3. Mimosa/Sour Mimosa
orange or grapefruit juice
Combine one part orange or grapefruit juice with two parts champagne.
4. Lavender Champagne
Pour champagne into flute until almost full. Add two splashes of lavender syrup. Garnish with a lemon twist.
5. Ginger Lemon Fizz
Pour two splashes of ginger syrup in flute. Add a splash of lemon juice. Fill flute to the top with champagne. Garnish with lemon twist.