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:
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:
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
- 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!
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
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1. Budget option: All homemade syrups
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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
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3. Splurge option: All liqueurs
- St. Germain
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.
(Image credits: Kristin Teig)