Why You Should Have a Sparkling Wine Bar at Your Next Cocktail Party

Gatherings from The Kitchn

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What's a cocktail party without a little bubbly? It's absolutely fine to serve Champagne or sparkling wine on its own, but a sparkling wine bar is so much more fun. What is a sparkling wine bar, to be exact? Let me explain:

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A sparkling wine bar is a make-your-own sparkling drink experience! It's a setup of at least three optional drink add-ins a guest might add to their sparkling wine.

For my Winter Glam Cocktail Party, I chose three types of wine additions: a liqueur, a homemade syrup, and a bottle of bitters — specifically, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, a Pink Grapefruit and Pomegranate syrup that I took from this soda recipe, and a bottle of Angostura bitters with a bowl of sugar cubes, if anyone wanted to make a classic Champagne cocktail.

I then set these next to the sparkling wine bottles with an instructional card letting guests know what to do:

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I also made a separate card, seen (blurrily) above with the recipe for a Champagne cocktail, namely one sugar cube, 4 to 6 dashes of Angostura bitters, and Champagne (or in my case, sparkling wine).

On buying sparkling wine stead of Champagne: A good bottle of Champagne costs $34-$40, which adds up quickly at a cocktail party when you're purchasing multiple bottles. A more budget-friendly option is to go for sparkling wine. There are many terrific options for $20 or under. Here's what our resident wine expert Mary Gorman-McAdams recommends.

$20 or under Recommended Sparkling Wines

  • Domaine Carneros Brut NV
  • Roederer Estate Brut NV
  • Chandon Brut
  • Mumm Cuvee Napa NV
  • Cremant du Jura
  • Deutscher Sekt bA
  • Sparkling Vouvray
  • Cava
  • Prosecco and Moscato (although they could clash with some of the mixers!)

I bought the Roederer Estate Brut, the Mumm Cuvee Napa, and the Cremant du Jura for my party, and I'd recommend all of them highly!

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For my sparkling wine bar setup, I chose three different types of add-ins, but you could go with all liqueurs, all syrups, or go beyond sparkling wine and offer a selection of bitters and garnishes for an Old-Fashioned tasting. Here are three ways to set it up:

3 Sparkling Wine Bars for 3 Budgets

* * *

1. Budget option: All homemade syrups

* * *

2. Middle-of-the-road option: One syrup, one bitters, one liqueur

  • Any syrup from above
  • Angostura or orange bitters, or another of your choice
  • Aperol, St. Germain, or PAMA

* * *

3. Splurge option: All liqueurs

  • Aperol
  • St. Germain
  • PAMA
  • Chambord
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It was really fun to see guests experiment with their sparkling wine! I know I'll keep this idea for my next party, maybe adding in an additional liqueur or another homemade syrup.

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Photographed by Kristin Teig
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(Image credits: Kristin Teig)