If a friendship could be measured in bubbles, then the one I share with my champagne sister, Kiron, could certainly be bottled.
It would be a Jeroboam, and a remarkable Grand Cru.
I met Kiron through a mutual friend last year, and she asked me to co-host the Flute Enthusiast Radio show with her. The show follows a format of tasting three different champagnes and talking our listeners through the tasting. I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to work when she initially approached me about it. For me, doing a tasting is all about, well, tasting. I didn’t see how listeners could follow along with something that they couldn’t join in with. What I hadn’t taken into consideration, was Kiron’s infectious personality, and her gift for making every occasion seem like it is the most fun and entertaining time of her life. She somehow manages to convey this across the airways.
Now, I can’t wait until we have an opportunity to get together to tape another show. We have such a discussion about what we will taste, and what people will be interested in hearing about, that the anticipation of being together just keeps building.
Our task for the most recent episode was to talk about Champagne Cocktails. The problem was both of us like to drink our champagne straight – not shaken, and certainly not stirred. Luckily there are some really lovely liqueurs available that have wonderful stories behind them, and gave us plenty to talk about. Plus they come in really pretty bottles! These liqueurs are a really great way of sweetening up an otherwise very dry champagne.
I had made a point of arriving early at her house (around 5pm) to allow plenty of time to get the show done, and to enjoy the magnificent sunset from her terrace. When I arrived, though, I was met with Kiron’s laugh ringing out across the grass, a neighbour looking very chuffed with himself, and a sabered magnum of Delamotte Blanc de Blancs being reverently poured into the waiting flutes. The sunset was spectacular, as was the champagne.
As darkness descended, we headed indoors and started to get down to the business of taping the show.
The scene was set, the photos taken, and we started chatting, and chatting, and chatting. And laughing. Kiron’s laugh echoes in your ears days after you have last spoken to her. Before we knew it, though, it was 11pm, and we still hadn’t taped the show!
Was this a disaster? Not at all – just a reason to have a bit more fun and realise how lucky we were to have an excuse to extend our Saturday night!
So what cocktails did we mix?
Mixing liqueur with champagne is traditionally called a Kir Royale. The most common liqueur used for Kir Royale is Cassis, or blackcurrant. We couldn’t do that! Firstly we used St Germain, an elderflower liqueur being enjoyed by all the cool kids at the moment. It is also one of the most elegant bottles around.
Wild Elderflower blossoms are handpicked in the French Alps during a very limited few weeks of the year. The blossoms are then transported by bicycle to the collection depot, before being distilled. Adding a drop of precious Elderflower liqueur to champagne is called a Kir Blanche Royale. We decided to serve it in a long tall flute – dignified and elegant.
All this ‘Royale’ talk made us think that Chambord was the next obvious choice for a cocktail. Chambord is so royal, it even has a crown for the cap. It was first presented to Louis XV in the 17th century on one of his visits to Chateau Chambord. Made from principally from black raspberries, with hints of Madagascar vanilla and congnac, it mixes superbly with champagne. We served it in vintage coupes, and there was a lovely effect in the glass with some of the liqueur staying at the bottom of the stem, giving a wonderful striped effect.
Not to be outdone by the French and their fancy liqueurs, next we added an Australian touch with some Wild Hibiscus Flowers. Wild hibiscus flowers are placed in a flute and champagne poured over. The flowers open up as the champagne bubbles over them, and can be reused through the night. Great for a party with the girls. They are edible and actually taste quite nice. I believe these flowers, also called Rosella, are native to Australia, and were developed as a cocktail addition quite by accident. The effect is beautiful!
We found something really unusual for the last drink – a violette liqueur from the South of France. A beautiful rich violet colour, it added an extraordinary subtle taste to the drink, a little bit like those old fashioned violet lollies. Friends of ours from Montpellier, who are very ‘branché’ (hip) introduced it to us one one of our recent visits. I just love the colour it gives, and it is a bit of fun. We found a really funky flute for this one!
Naturally we had a great little party for two, and eventually rolled into bed for a very comfortable night’s sleep.
When I woke this morning, to bright sunshine streaming through the windows, and a magnificent view of the valley below, I realised that the real star of the show was not the liqueurs, but the lady who made it all possible.
This friendship is really worth bottling!