I have a weakness for bubbles: frothy coffee drinks, root beer soda, and of course, bubble baths. And then there’s Champagne, my favorite bubble of all. This time of year, it’s everywhere. Yet another reason to love the holidays.
Christmas parties and the like usually find me looking for ways to work bubbly beverages into my repertoire. And with my current zeal for all things Afghan, it seems fitting to move in that direction. Here is a recipe for a Champagne cocktail with a bit of an Afghan accent. It’s hardly traditional: Afghanistan doesn’t exactly count bubbly amongst its exports. Alcohol is simply not part of the Afghan culture or the Muslim tradition.
What is traditional however is the cherry syrup that gives this drink its touch of sweetness and rosy hue. Big beautiful cherries grow happily in Afghanistan. Afghans are proud of these delicious beauties and serve them for dessert on giant platters after dinners and banquets. When not eaten fresh, cherries are pitted and turned into preserves or cooked for hours along with plenty of sugar to form a viscous sweet and sour cherry syrup. The syrup is then mixed with water to make sweet cherry juice that is a favorite in the warm summer months.
This recipe is a variation on Humaira’s Whirling Afghan, a refreshing cocktail she created for a birthday party a few years ago. I’ve substituted Champagne for sparkling water, left out the cherries since they are out of season, and added a sugar rim for a festive touch. Try serving the cocktail as an aperitif along with our Spicy Afghan Chick Peas.
Bubbly Afghan Cherry Cocktail
1 orange, cut in half
1 tbsp. sour cherry syrup*
1 tbsp. chilled vodka
Cold sparkling wine/Champagne
Pour a tablespoon or two of sugar in a shallow dish. Dab the rim of a Champagne glass on the cut side of the orange and dip it in the sugar to form a thin coat of sugar around the edge of the glass (like salting a margarita glass).
Carefully pour the cherry syrup, vodka and sparkling wine into the glass, filling it nearly to the top. Try not to dribble on your pretty sugar rim. Very gently give it a stir. Too vigorous a stir will cause the wine to bubble over the edge of the glass.
Garnish with orange and serve immediately.
*You can find cherry syrup in Middle Eastern markets and gourmet grocery stores.Feel free to substitute other syrups such as pomegranate.
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