In the love triangle that is "The Great Gatsby," Champagne is like the hypotenuse, a thread that runs long and strong opposite the namesake star of the new movie. Bottles upon bottles of Moet & Chandon are swilled and spilled at the movie's Jazz Age soirees from Long Island to Manhattan.
No surprise Moet & Chandon has created a signature Gatsby cocktail in conjunction with the film's opening. And no cynical sneers here. I'm a recent convert to sparkling wine, its effervescence bright and sippable after years of deep reds and flat whites.
All that Moet in the movie is neither coincidence nor shameless marketing. The film's costume and production designer Catherine Martin says the Moet vintage from 1921 was particularly fine, which made it a credible choice for Jay Gatsby in 1922. "It didn't hurt that Moet & Chandon still had the original label artwork from that 1921 vintage that we were able to reproduce for the film," Martin adds.
Jim Meehan, mixologist at PDT in New York and author of "The PDT Cocktail Book," was tapped to concoct what was christened the Moet Imperial Gatsby, being served at The Plaza Hotel in New York. Splashing a sugar cube with the French liqueur green Chartreuse, he drops it in the bottom of a glass for a mantle of earthy herbaceousness under the crispness of Moet Imperial Champagne.
That mossy hit intrigued my husband and our daughter's godfather enough to try one at a recent Sunday dinner. Among girlfriends the night before, sugar cube after sugar cube went plop, plop, fizz, fizz, as the conversation sparkled above, without any need for Alka-Seltzer the next morning. It is said that a fizzy drink lends itself as naturally to moderation as to celebration. We'll toast and attest to that.
French 75 and other classics
Purists consider there to be only one true Champagne cocktail. Meehan dates it to Jerry Thomas' "Bartender's Guide" from 1862. It consists of Champagne, a sugar cube soaked in Angostura bitters and a lemon twist.
But many mixed drinks incorporate Champagne or sparkling wine: The French 75, which adds a nip of gin or cognac, as well as the Jimmie Roosevelt and the Airmail can be found in Meehan's book. Other sparkling options include juleps, cobblers, fixes, shrubs and punches.
Our source at Binny's Beverage Depot said there's no need to splurge on Champagne when mixing a drink. A decent brut domestic sparkling wine will do. We went with the moderately priced Chandon ($14) to re-create the French 75 served at Chicago's Sepia, which uses rosé. The drink's origins, like most, are imprecise, but its impact was compared to that of a French 75mm field gun, thus the name.
Moet Imperial Gatsby
1 sugar cube
3 dashes green Chartreuse
5 ounces Moet
Garnish: Lemon or lime twist
Place sugar cube in the bottom of a Champagne flute or white wine glass. Add a few dashes of green Chartreuse. Fill remainder of glass with Champagne and garnish with lemon twist.
Notes: Created by Carthusian monks in France since the 18th century, Chartreuse blends more than 130 herbs and spices into either green or a milder, sweeter yellow Chartreuse. With chlorophyll lending the golden-green hue, maceration and distillation produces what was once believed to be an elixir of life — which may help explain its price tag ($60 for 750 ml).
Moet & Chandon says its Chef de Cave, Benoit Gouez, always drinks Moet out of a white wine glass, often the preference within the Champagne industry. The wider bowl lets Champagne's aromas develop in the glass, and helps deliver the bubbly to the middle of the tongue rather than the tip of the lips, a spokeswoman says.
Sepia's French 75
3/4 oz simple syrup
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
2 dashes of orange Angostura bitters
1.5 oz Hendricks gin
Rosé sparkling wine
Shake all of the ingredients in a martini shaker, except the rosé. Strain into a martini glass or coupe. Top with sparkling rosé. Rub orange twist around rim of glass and perch on edge of glass.