Classic Champagne Cocktail

Sparkly and elegant, the classic Champagne Cocktail is fit for celebrating. Made with brandy or vodka, a few drops of flavorful bitters and some bright bubbly, say cheers to this glittering classic cocktail.

A glass of champagne sits next to a teal and gold bowl of sugar cubes and bitters.

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Classic Champagne Cocktail recipe

Champagne is already elevated and elegant on its own, but in a cocktail it’s even more fun.

The first time I ordered a traditional Champagne Cocktail, the restaurant pulled out all the stops.

Our server brought glasses partly filled with brandy, a bottle of champagne and an array of colored sugar cubes soaked in bitters of all kinds of flavors from lemon to lavender.

The server filled our glasses with bubbly and dropped our choice of sugar cube into each drink. We marveled at the sugar cubes as they bubbled and fizzed in the champagne.

This classic drink is perfect for celebrating any special occasion, such as engagements, new jobs or romantic dinners. It’s also perfect for the holiday season, especially New Year’s!

Why you’ll love this recipe

The traditional Champagne Cocktail is a great way to dress up a glass of bubbly. It really takes a plain glass of champagne to the next level.

  • Champagne lovers can celebrate anything with this classic champagne drink.
  • Customize the taste of this cocktail with different types of bitters and flavored sugar cubes.
  • Drink this classic cocktail any time of year. Enjoy it in the warm months or serve them for holiday celebrations like a New Year’s Eve party!

Set up a champagne cocktail bar for a fun way to serve drinks at a party. Offer different flavors or bitters or colored sugar cubes and let guests run wild.

A classic champagne cocktail bubbles in front of its ingredients

What is a Champagne Cocktail?

There are all kinds of champagne cocktails out there, from the orange juice-based classic mimosa to the Aperol Spritz, but few come close to the elegance of the Champagne Cocktail.

The classic recipe includes a cube of sugar saturated with aromatic bitters plus brandy and bubbles. The sugar cube provides a touch of sweetness, and along with the cognac, balances the dry, acidic qualities of brut champagne. A few drops of flavored bitters on the sugar cube really help to round out this cocktail with a depth of flavor.

According to Moet, the Champagne Cocktail was invented in 1855 in Panama and became popular. The recipe was published in the first-ever cocktail book, Jerry Thomas’s Bartenders Guide.

colored sugar cubes in a silver cup

Ingredients

You only need a few key ingredients to put together a classic champagne cocktail.

Sugar cubes

A lump of sugar is at the heart of every champagne cocktail. Most are made with plain, white sugar cubes soaked in a few drops of Angostura bitters, but that’s just the beginning.

Brown sugar cubes can be used as well, though they can make the cocktail appear a bit darker in color.

Homemade sugar cubes aren’t that difficult to make and you can flavor them with bitters, juices or even essential oils. You can also add a drop or two of food coloring to make them stand out.

Flavored simple syrups can also be used in lieu of the sugar cube, though simple syrup sort of misses out on that bubbling magic from the dancing sugar cubes.

bottles of bitters laying on a grey and white stripe kitchen towel

Bitters

Bitters are an alcoholic flavoring agent made of aromatic plant extracts that are often used to flavor cocktails and drinks.

They can be made from a number of botanical ingredients such as herbs, spices, flowers, fruits, seeds, leaves, bark and roots.

Aromatic bitters are the most common type of bitters and generally contain gentian, quassia, and wild cherry bark. Angostura bitters is the most popular brand name of these fragrant bitters. Look for its signature oversized label.

You can also use other brands of aromatic bitters, or even other flavors of bitters to adjust the flavor.

Brandy or vodka

Brandy is a fruit-based spirit made by fermenting fruit juices or wine. It is typically enjoyed as an after-dinner digestif, but it can be enjoyed in cocktails as well, such as the brandy alexander and the sidecar.

Cognac is a specific type of brandy that is made from distilled white wine. Smoother and more complex, the French say it’s made from l’eau de vie AKA “the water of life.” As such, it’s a protected type of brandy and must follow certain requirements to bear the name “cognac” on the label.

My advice is always to use the best brandy you can afford. In fact, that’s my go-to advice for any cocktail!

Brandy has different designations for the age of the brandy used in the bottle. V.S. (which means “very special”) and V.S.O.P. (which means “very superior old pale”) are aged for two and four years respectively, and both are good choices for cocktail mixing. Any older and the price tag goes up.

a bottle of champagne with a cork and wire topper

Champagne

Champagne fits the bill for the cocktail named after it! But because champagne can only come from the Champagne region of France, it can be a tad expensive.

Any kind of dry sparkling wine, such as cava or prosecco, will work here too. Look for “dry,” “brut” or “extra brut” on the label.

My guide to sparkling wine can help you pick out a bottle and tell you more about the different types.

A great budget buy is Freixenet or La Marca, which are both in the $12-15 range. They are good quality yet they don’t break the bank.

If you like, you can even use sparkling rosé to make pink champagne cocktails.

Garnishes

To me, it’s stunning enough on its own, but you can add extra garnishes to the cocktail if you like.

Pieces of orange zest or orange slices are common. Some people also add a cocktail cherry (preferably not a maraschino cherry though). Other types of citrus peel also work, such as a lemon twist.

Champagne bubbles in a stemmed glass with a cork, champagne bottle, gold cocktail jigger, and other ingredients out of focus behind.

Variations and substitutions

Something I love about this cocktail is that you can customize it in so many ways.

Make it non-alcoholic: Use a non-alcoholic spirit such as Ritual gin alternative (affiliate link) or Ritual whiskey alternative (affiliate link) instead of the brandy. Substitute ginger ale, sparkling lemonade or sparkling cider instead of champagne.

Substitute the brandy: Make this recipe with other liqueurs. With gin it’s more like a French 75. With bourbon, it’s more like a Seelbach. Vodka is also a common swap for brandy.

Use flavored bitters: Try using flavored bitters, such as orange bitters or ginger bitters, instead of classic Angostura to give the cocktail subtle new flavors.

How to make the Champagne Cocktail

Making a champagne cocktail is so easy to put together! Pull out the champagne glasses (a champagne coupe works too).

Then place one or two sugar cubes in the bottom of a champagne flute.

Bitters are dropped from a dropper onto sugar cubes in a flute glass

Add a few drops or dashes of bitters. You can do one type or mix and match your favorite flavors.

Brandy and sugar cubes sit in a champagne flute.

Top the bitters-soaked sugar cube with brandy.

Champagne is poured into a stemmed champagne flute over sugar cubes.

Lastly, pour champagne over top. Serve immediately so you don’t miss a moment of this cocktail’s show.

More champagne cocktail recipes

A glass of champagne sits next to a teal and gold bowl of sugar cubes and bitters.

Classic Champagne Cocktail

Yield: 1 cocktail
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

A sparkling champagne cocktail is the perfect way to ring in the New Year or celebrate any special occasion.

Ingredients

  • 2 sugar cubes
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • 1 ounce brandy
  • 4 ounces champagne

Instructions

  1. Place one or two sugar cubes in the bottom of a champagne flute.
  2. Add a few drops or dashes of bitters.
  3. Top with brandy, then top with with champagne. Serve immediately.

Notes

Make it non-alcoholic: Use a non-alcoholic spirit such as Ritual gin alternative or Ritual whiskey alternative instead of the brandy. Substitute ginger ale, sparkling lemonade or sparkling cider instead of champagne.

Substitute the brandy: You can make this recipe with other spirits. Vodka is a common swap for brandy. Gin or bourbon also work.

Use flavored bitters: Try using a flavored bitters, such as orange bitters or ginger bitters, instead of classic Angostura to give the cocktail subtle new flavors.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 5 ounces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 182Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 6mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 0gSugar: 6gProtein: 0g

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