Excellence deserves a toast, and shouldn’t those celebrating a nomination or win at the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, Grammys or Oscars be drinking the best? Those watching awards shows at home can also imbibe in the celebratory spirits, and Variety polled cocktail experts on the best pairings for kudocasts as well as their own inventive tipples.
France’s major Champagne houses annually align with awards shows. The Golden Globes wouldn’t be the same without those strategically placed magnums of Moet & Chandon on each starry table. SAG toasts begin on the red carpet with Champagne Taittinger, while Piper-Heidsieck flows at the Oscars Governors Ball (and numerous AMPAS events).
When the Golden Globes air on Jan. 5, expect Moet & Chandon Champagne and its signature cocktail to once again be front and center during the telecast. Matt Landes, founder of the Cocktail Academy, a creative service agency that executes memorable drink experiences throughout Hollywood, suggests a twist on the classic French 75 as an aperitif pairing for the glittery kudocast: Replace the Champagne with anejo or reposado tequila; anything in a coupe glass works, too, he says. Another Landes suggestion is the Bee’s Knees (gin, lemon and honey syrup) with a Champagne float as an effervescent accompaniment.
The six Golden Globe nominations for “Marriage Story” immediately telegraphed a boutique pinot noir from Sta. Rita Hills (north of Santa Barbara) for the Lucques Group’s wine director Caroline Styne (A.O.C., Lucques, Tavern). Amy & Peter Made This Pinot Noir, Radian Vineyard “is a wine made by a lovely young couple on the Central Coast creating something together,” says Styne. The couple is not divorcing, she assures, and continue to produce the super drinkable, delicious red that her team poured all summer long at the Hollywood Bowl.
The 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards marks a 20-year partnership with Champagne Taittinger; its Brut La Francaise is served throughout the night. Cooper’s Hawk Winery provides the wines, including a proprietary red blend crafted for the occasion.
Bar director and prolific cocktail creator Chris Amirault of downtown L.A.’s Otium collaborated on a suite of 16 cocktails inspired by movies now available at the restaurant through March. Amirault thoughtfully analyzes scenarios and takes a multifaceted approach when creating movie-themed cocktails. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (nominated for four SAG Awards) makes the cut via Otium’s Bounty Law, and owes its provenance to Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Rick Dalton, his black-and-white TV Western and his penchant for overindulging in whiskey sours. Amirault’s variation on the whiskey sour substitutes egg whites with a textured Beijing meringue made from Chinese yogurt, lightly torched in a salute to the film’s fiery climax. His recipe: Michter’s Rye whiskey (slightly spicier for the winter menu) shaken with lemon juice, cinnamon syrup and bittersweet Cynar liqueur topped with the velvety meringue. Definitely don’t drink eight of them, recommends Amirault.
“Bombshell” (four SAG noms) inspired Cocktail Academy’s Landes to riff on the Old Fashioned and its rep as a masculine, stirred (not shaken) drink and to demonstrate the gender bias people have even in cocktails. Landes says the red lipstick mark on the rocks glass is the kicker for the His Own Downfall cocktail. The recipe calls for two ounces of Johnnie Walker Black or Bulleit bourbon, brown sugar cube and bitters with an orange twist, making a powerful, spirit-forward on-the-rocks drink for sipping.
The Grammys bring out the bling. Toast winners and nominees with Drake’s Champagne: his Mod Selection Reserve Vintage 2008 retails at a cool $480. “Champagne always sets the tone for a celebration and is something that one can sip throughout the long telecast without getting tired,” says Styne. She recommends a smaller production grower Champagne, one crafted by a woman winemaker: the non-vintage, J. Lassalle, Cachet d’Or, Premier Cru, Chigny-les-Roses (available at K&L Wine Merchants). “Gold records make me think of Champagne, and this artisanal wine holds up and even exceeds that of the larger brands qualitatively,” says the vet wine pro. And it works well with cheese and charcuterie, savory snacks for the long kudocast.
At the Grammy’s official after-party for 5,000 and all Grammy week, spirits partner Absolut vodka cocktails are on the menu. Its signature cocktail for 2020 is the Absolut Cosmo Mule: a mix of Absolut Vodka, cranberry juice and ginger beer finished with an orange wedge and served over ice. The younger set is enamored with White Claw, a low-proof blend of seltzer and alcohol, available in cans; however, there’s a need to cater to the under-21 crowd as six-time nominated hitmaker Billie Eilish and many of her fans require non-alcoholic alternatives. Seedlip’s flavorful distilled water blended with botanicals is an easy substitute for spirits in most cocktail recipes.
Awards season culminates in Oscars’ weekend of spirited events. For the sixth year, Piper-Heidsieck provides the Champagne for the Academy Awards, rewarding for wins or soothing for disappointments. There’s no doubt that tequila is the dominant spirit of the entertainment world. Oscar sponsor Don Julio brings its A-game to the Governors Ball and offers its anejo Tequila Don Julio 1942 (aged for a minimum of 2½ years) for sipping as well as its spirits portfolio for margarita and other specialty cocktails at the party.
Oscar-winner Francis Ford Coppola is behind the Governors Ball’s exclusive premium wine selections; both the 2017 Family Coppola Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and 2018 Family Coppola Russian River Valley Chardonnay arrive in brilliant gold bottles for the occasion. He’s awaiting the reception to the statement bottling. “It’s always a challenge to be able to provide wine for the tables of the Academy Banquet that also represents the nine-decades-long tradition of creativity and innovation that is being honored,” says the patriarch of the Family Coppola wineries.
No matter the awards show, no one will go home thirsty. Cheers to all!
How to Drink Champagne
There’s a preferred way to imbibe Champagne or sparkling wines. The classic coupe is not the best choice: the wide mouth of the glass lets the effervescence and aromas dissipate quickly, which is OK for a sweet sparkling wine or Instagram but not for savoring a vintage pour. Flutes do the job but accentuate the visual appeal of bubbles more than enhance consumption. Champagne houses recommend a tulip-shaped white wine glass because the wider middle and narrow top allows a prestige Champagne’s delicate aromas to blossom. Fine crystal is the material of choice; the thinner the glass, the less interference between palate and bubbly. And pros suggest submerging the bottle in ice and water and serving chilled at 48 degrees Fahrenheit.
And remember to hold the glass by the stem, not the bowl —your hands will warm up the lovely bubbly up too quickly.