Bursting with tart citrus and tongue-tickling bubbles, a limoncello and Champagne cocktail is easy to make and even easier to sip. Fresh-squeezed lemon juice balances out the syrupy, sweet liqueur. And while it's plenty strong without any additional spirits, you can create a more contrived cocktail with the addition of gin, vodka, or Bourbon. Fresh fruit and seasonal herbs make for a beautiful-to-behold cocktail.
Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur that's perfectly sweet, fully loaded, and wonderfully syrupy. Italians often sip limoncello from a shot glass as a digestif (at the end of a meal). But any limoncello cocktail is a mouthwatering aperitif and pairs well with an array of food, hot summer nights, and snowy winter evenings.
A popular iteration is a limoncello spritz, and this one is very similar. But this limoncello and Champagne cocktail is stronger and less sweet than a spritz. Just as refreshing, this recipe calls for a squeeze of lemon and a shot of gin or vodka, if you dare. Even if you skip the spirits, limoncello and Champagne are a match made in cocktail heaven. And incredibly easy to make for your next party or when the moment calls for a bright, fresh cocktail.
Only three ingredients are necessary for a sparkling limoncello libation: lemon juice, limoncello, and Champagne. And even if you don't have lemon juice, I've never minded a few splashes of limoncello with sparkling wine. Garnish your sparklers with what you have on hand, what you like, or not at all.
- Limoncello. Depending on where you live, it may be slim pickings as to what bottle you can find. I enjoy Caravella since it's not as sticky and sweet as other bottlings. Fabrizia and Knight Gabriello are two more brands to seek out.
- Champagne or sparkling wine. Whether true Champagne from France, Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, or sparkling wine from anywhere else, all apply.
- Lemon juice. Fresh-squeezed is best (a sommelier's mantra). But if bottled is your preferred form look for ones without added sugar and preservatives.
- Gin or vodka. This is entirely optional. And it certainly makes the cocktail stronger.
- Fresh herbs and garnishes. Herbal basil is a knockout with lemon. Rosemary is an eye-catching garnish, and sage is perfect for wintertime frivolity. When blueberries or raspberries are in season, I recommend sinking a couple of firmer ones in the glasses. The fruit absorbs the drink and makes for a nice little treat at the end of sipping. Maraschino cherries are classic and add a pop of color.
True Champagne is produced in the region of France of the same name. But you don't need to shell out for an import to enjoy a nice sparkling cocktail. The key to replicating Champagne's delightful effervescence and tart, subtle tasting notes is a bubbly of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. And one that is subject to méthode champenoise, or a second fermentation in the bottle.
And unless you enjoy a sweeter cocktail, buy bottles labeled Brut, Brut Nature, Extra Brut, or Extra Dry. Both blanc de blanc (white wine from white grapes) and blanc de noir (white wine from red grapes) are equally enticing.
The standard operating procedure for a limoncello and champagne cocktail is to measure the ingredients directly into the glass. Then top it off with Champagne and clink away. Always store and enjoy sparkling wine chilled. But if the limoncello and any liquor aren't ice cold, I recommend employing a shaker or two nested glasses to quickly chill the spirits with ice.
- Measure the limoncello. Measure the limoncello and any liquor into a champagne coupe, flute, or wine glass. If the spirits aren't ice cold, shake them together in a cocktail shaker filled with ice until it frosts over. You can also use two nested drinking glasses. Just be sure to create a tight seal before shaking it like a salt shaker.
- Squeeze in fresh lemon. Roll the lemon on the counter or cutting board pressing down hard. This helps the juices release. Cut it in half crosswise, scrape out any seeds, and squeeze the juice of one half into the glass. If you are making multiple drinks at once, I recommend juicing several lemons into a measuring glass with a mesh strainer set on top to catch the seeds. Then you can measure a couple of tablespoons into each drink.
- Top with Champagne. Pour the chilled sparkling wine into the glass until it almost reaches the top. Be careful, the bubbles are known to keep growing long after you stop pouring.
- Garnish. Garnish with a lemon peel, fresh herb leaves such as basil, mint, sage, or rosemary, in-season berries, or maraschino cherries.
- Fresh lemon juice. You can't beat fresh-squeeze lemon juice. Or the little flecks of lemon fiber that create an incredibly aromatic cocktail. If you're not a fan of squeezing, look for pure bottlings with lemon juice listed as the only ingredient.
- Ice-cold limoncello. While it's fun to display pretty bottles on a bar cart or the counter, keep that bottle of Limoncello in the freezer. It's potent enough there's no chance it'll freeze. And a cold, crisp cocktail is hard to beat.
- Buy a sparkling wine you like to drink au natural. Yes, you're mixing it in with a high-proof liqueur. But acidic, poorly made wine will make for a less interesting and headache-inducing cocktail. Great American-made bottles of sparkling wine can be found for around $12, including Domaine St. Michelle and Piper Sonoma. My personal favorite is Gruet which runs around $16. And many bottles of Cava are downright bargains and the Spanish sparkling wine is made with high-quality grapes and the same methods. Beware of bargain bottles that cost less than $10, many are simply carbonated white wine and a distant second to traditional Champagne.
- Limoncello Martini. If you enjoy a lemon drop cocktail or shot, limoncello takes it to that next lemony level. Top with a splash of sparking wine to fizz it up.
- Limoncello Spritz. This is a very similar cocktail that calls for topping limoncello with Prosecco and lemon sparkling water or soda. Aim for a two-to-one ratio of Prosecco to soda.
- Gingered Limoncello Cocktail. If you enjoy spicy libations, shake limoncello, a shot of gin, and a little freshly grated ginger root in a cocktail shaker with ice. Replacing a portion of the Champagne with ginger beer makes for an interesting kick.
- Berry-Limoncello Cocktail. Calling all home mixologists. Shake the limoncello, gin, vodka, or Bourbon, and fresh fruit preserves in a shaker tin with ice. The strained cocktail can be served on the rocks or topped with Champagne in a flute or wine glass. The colors are downright beautiful.
- Bourbon Spritz. Bourbon and lemon play nice together. Switch out the vodka or gin for a woodsy, caramelly shot of Bourbon and a richly-colored cocktail. To lighten up on the alcohol content, substitute a bit of lemon or orange sparkling water for the Champagne.
Both limoncello and sparkling wine are great aperitifs. Or cocktails and liqueurs that get you salivating for salty, crunchy, spicy appetizers. So yes, cheese puffs are a textbook pairing for a Champagne cocktail. But any salty, spicy side dishes or entrées pair nicely.
In my research for this particular piece, I came across a limoncello cocktail recipe where the photos showed a bottle of Veuve Cliquot in the background. Veuve, as we called it at Wally’s where I put my sommelier training to work, is one of France's most illustrious Champagne houses. And anyone who's shopped for a bottle knows it's not cheap.
So please don't use Veuve for your limoncello and Champagne cocktail.
Drink that spendy $@#& straight up.
That is all.
- 1 jigger or 1.5 ounces of Limoncello, chilled
- 1 jigger or 1.5 ounces of gin or vodka, optional
- ½ of a lemon, for squeezing
- Champagne or sparkling wine, for topping off
- Lemon peel, maraschino cherries, fresh berries and/or fresh basil, mint, or sage leaves, for garnish
- Measure the limoncello (or don't). Measure chilled limoncello and any liquor into a champagne coupe, flute, or wine glass. If the spirits aren’t cold, you can shake them in a cocktail shaker with ice until it frosts over.
- Squeeze in fresh lemon juice. After scraping out the seeds, squeeze the juice of half a small lemon into the glass. If you’re making multiple drinks it can be easier to juice several lemons with a strainer set over a measuring cup. Then measure a couple of tablespoons into each glass.
- Top with Champagne. Pour your Champagne or sparkling wine in the glass until you almost reach the top (be careful, the bubbles are known to keep growing long after you stop pouring).
- Garnish. Garnish with a lemon peel, fresh herb leaves such as mint, sage or rosemary, berries, or maraschino cherries.
- Shake the limoncello and liquor in a cocktail shaker. If you keep your bottle of limoncello in the freezer (like the Italians), it's of course plenty cold. But if it's not cold, and especially if you are adding a liquor like gin or vodka, I recommend shaking the two with the lemon juice in a shaker tin with ice until it frosts over. Then strain into the flute or glass and top with Champagne.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: None
- Category: Cocktails
- Method: Mixology
- Cuisine: Italian
- Diet: Vegetarian
- Serving Size: 1 Limoncello Champagne Cocktail
- Calories: 376
- Sugar: 19.5 g
- Sodium: 3 mg
- Fat: 0.2 g
- Carbohydrates: 23.6 g
- Protein: 0.2 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
Keywords: limoncello champagne cocktail, limoncello cocktail,
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