Serious Eats: Recipes

Drink the Book: Soyer au Champagne

[Photograph: Marleigh Riggins Miller ]

I first encountered this dessert cocktail in Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, and it alarmed me a bit. Gilding the lily is one of my favorite activities, but there was something mildly insane about the thought of putting ice cream in champagne.

Fortunately, I also have a Double Dog Dare voice in my head compelling me to try all the strange beverages that cross my path. Chili tinctures, milk with citrus, pine extract, demi-glace—there is no cocktail ingredient combination too bizarre to thwart me. This is how I came to try Cave Creek Chili Beer (don't), the Snowshoe (do), the Tomato Kiss (don't) and, ultimately, the Soyer au Champagne (do, it's delicious).

The Soyer dates back quite far—circa 1888, according to Haigh, and it appears in a number of esteemed manuals from the time. Compared with the early recipes published by Harry McElhone and Harry Craddock, the recipe reprinted in the 1953 Esquire Handbook for Hosts deviates very little. Even the notes on the drink are similar, noting that the Soyer is "one of the most popular drinks at Christmas in the continental caf├ęs".

Esquire's editors also chose to preserve the garnish; there is so much fruit on the cocktail it's hard to imagine drinking around it. Feel free to strip it down to a simple orange slice and a cherry. Also, be cautious when choosing a sparkling wine for this one: a brut or extra brut will be on the sharp side when paired with ice cream. Instead, look for an extra dry, sec (dry) or demi-sec sparkling wine, such as Graham Beck Bliss Demi-Sec or Freixenet Cordon Negro Extra Dry.

About the author: Marleigh Riggins Miller writes and photographs for SLOSHED!, a website about cocktails, spirits, home bartending, and entertaining.

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