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Which Champagne to Use?

By: Thomas Muller - Updated: 2 Mar 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Which Champagne To Use?

Q.

A black velvet cocktail calls for champagne and stout. What kind of champagne is best? A dry champagne like brut or a sweet champagne like spumante?

(J.E, 12 May 2009)

A.

Although known variously as both ‘Black Velvet’ and the ‘Bismarck’, it is the former name that perfectly encapsulates not only the look and texture of this rather old fashioned drink but also the experience and sensation of drinking one – it is a thick, rich and luxurious beverage.

A Surprisingly Tasty Combination

Although the idea of marrying stout with Champagne might seem like an unholy alliance to the uninitiated, they complement one another surprisingly well. The stout’s tang allies with the Champagne’s dry, fruity crispness, and the bubbles help relieve the robust richness of the black stuff.

It is certainly an acquired taste, but its staunch admirers love it for its combination of the smooth and the bitter, and its lovely frothy head.

Choosing the Ingredients

Of course, preparing your own Black Velvet it not simply a case of tipping a flute of champagne into your pint of stout and giving it a quick stir – the preparation of the drink and choice of ingredients has a significant impact on whether a Black Velvet becomes a favourite indulgence or a misadventure best forgotten.

With regards to ingredients, Guinness is traditionally favoured as the stout choice. In Germany, where the drink is commonly known as a Bismarck, the stout role is played by their own Schwarzbier (black beer), which although looks much like a porter or stout, is in fact a much milder and less bitter dark lager beer.

You have a relatively free reign with the choice of wine accompaniment. It doesn’t even need to be Champagne, just as long as it’s a dry and sparkling wine. In fact some people even prefer using cider instead. Needless to say, a good quality sparkling wine choice is recommended.

Although it is advisable to plump for a drier wine, using sweeter bottlings of sparkling wine will certainly not spoil the cocktail if that’s all you have available. In fact it is good idea to try out different levels of sparkling wine sweetness to see what suits your palate best.

Proper Preparation and Serving

What requires the greatest care is how the Black Velvet is served.

Firstly it should be served cold. The two ingredients and the jug in which they are combined should be kept in the fridge overnight. When ready it can be served in a pint glass or a Champagne flute.

One of the chief characteristics of the drink is that the two drinks are not mixed up together, but remain separate. The two different densities should form a layer on top of the other, with the Champagne at the bottom.

To achieve this effect, the Champagne should first be slowly poured into the jug up to the half measure. Putting the stout in first will cause the whole mixture to foam over.

Next, the stout should be poured on top very slowly over the back of a spoon. This is so that the stout settles gently on the top of the Champagne and doesn’t cause the two liquids to mix up.

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