Viking Eric the Red dubbed North America “Vineland” when he arrived in the tenth century, and his sin, Leif Erikson, called it by the same name. Little did they know that it would someday reflect America’s love affair with sparkling wines. Our founding fathers, including George Washington , toasted the birth of the nation in 1776 with glasses of Champagne. (According to one rumor, Champagne was Martha Washington’s favorite drink – and George kept a liberal supply on hand to keep her happy.) Alongside smooth Tennessee whiskey and Kentucky bourbon, Champagne poured like water from coast to coast. The Americana cocktail tips its hat to the marriage of smoky, sweet bourbon and light, effervescent Champagne.
According to the authors of Champagne!, Isaac Cronin and Rafael Pallais, the luckiest prospectors that flooded San Francisco’s hotels and saloons after striking rich along the American River in 1849 were known to wash the gold dust (and six months” worth of dirt) off their bodies in bathtubs filled with frothy Champagne.
In the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, survivors of this catastrophe drowned their sorrows and rejoiced in being alive by purchasing more than a railcar load of Champagne.
Champagne itself would never have survived without good old American resourcefulness. Four years later, in 1910, when the root-killing phylloxera vastatrix louse threatened to decimate the Champagne region’s precious vineyards (as it had done to grape crops throughout Europe), Americans came to the rescue . It was discovered that the louse-resistant roots of Californian vines could be grafted to the indigenous Champenois Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier vines, protecting the delicate source of the world’s favorite wine.
America came to Champagne’s rescue again during the Second World War when Gen. George S. Patton liberated the city of Epernay in the Champagne region on August 28, 1944. Luckily, local producers had managed to conceal more than enough Champagne to celebrate their freedom with the Gl’s, despite the fact they had been forced to ship 400,000 bottles per week to Adolf Hitler and his staff. In possibly the best indication that the war was favoring the Allies, one Nazi aide observed that Champagne was not served at the Fuehrer’s fiftieth birthday celebration on April 20, 1945: “It is only that day that I knew we had lost the war.”
Americana Champagne Cocktail Recipe
- 1 tsp. bourbon
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- 5 oz. Champagne
- Fresh peach slice
Pour the bourbon and bitters into a flute. Then slowly add the Champagne and garnish with the peach slice.
The Crystal Peach mixes 1 oz. bourbon and 1 dash Fee Bros. peach bitters with 4 oz. Champagne flute.
The Kathy Casey Food Studios make a Rusty Champagne Cocktail that mixes 1 dash of each: Drambouie and Oban scotch in a flute. Slowly add 5 oz. Champagne.