How To Drink Champagne Like A Pro

Whether you’re celebrating love, success, or just-because, paying mind to temperature, airflow, glassware, and more can mean the difference between a fine sip and a phenomenal one.

by Nicholas McClelland
Two clinking champagne glasses on dark background
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Ever since English royalty got word of its effervescent charms in the 17th century, Champagne has been the universal beverage of celebrations. New Year’s Eve? New job? Anniversary? Pop the cork and clink those glasses.

It still deserves its designation. For a bottle to be called Champagne, it must meet numerous requirements beyond being made in the specific region of northeast France for which it is named. Essentially, maisons ala Moet Chandon, Veuve Clicquot and Taittinger all take wines made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes and blend them together to create their particular house styles. The concoctions are then bottled with a bit of yeast and sugar for a second round of fermentation, a step that produces those defining effervescence. French law requires non-vintage Champagne to age for at least 15 months, while a vintage bottling needs 36 months before they’re disgorged — that is, purged of yeast and sediment —, re-corked, and shipped to distributors near you.

Making Champagne is quite a labor-intensive process to say the least and the artisans who create it put a great deal of care into every bottle. That’s why inside a good one, you can find a wealth of flavors. It’s also why you should be sure to follow the proper protocol when you’re planning to enjoy a glass or three. Paying mind to such factors as temperature (nope, you shouldn’t put it in your fridge), airflow (let it breaaaathe), and proper glassware (hint: it’s not a flute) can make the celebration even more memorable.

So, if you want to maximize the taste of your Champagne, here, with help from Marie-Christine Osselin, wine quality and communication manager at Moët & Chandon, are seven tips to remember — and a champagne cocktail to consider as well.

1. Temperature Is Everything

Serving Champagne at the correct temperature is crucial if you want to experience all the flavors a good bottle has to offer. Like revenge, bubbly is best served cold… but not too cold. A chill is required to preserve the effervescence but if it’s too frosty the wine closes up, making it hard to experience the wealth of flavors.

For non-vintage Champagne, Osselin says eight-to-10 degrees Celsius — roughly 46.4 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit — is the range you want to maintain. If it’s too cold, don’t worry too much as it will warm in your glass. However, problems arise if it's too warm. When Champagne’s temperature moves higher than the range above, not only will the mouthfeel flatten but, per Osselin, “when it's warmer, you taste much more acidity, and you won’t get the aromas.”

2. Don’t Store It In The Fridge

In a perfect world, we would all have a wine cellar for storage. But for those of us who don’t live in a chateau, storing Champagne for medium-length spells is relatively easy. You want to keep it at a consistent temperature in a cool spot with low light. Your refrigerator obviously fits that bill. But the fridge also removes too much humidity, so corks may dry out, degrading the seal between it and the bottle. This may cause the wine to oxidize, which is bad for flavor preservation.

What’s more, refrigerators are generally set to around 40 degrees Fahrenheit — colder than you want to serve your Champagne. So, you really only want to move it to the ice box for two to three hours to prepare it for drinking. “If you buy a bottle of champagne and it's warm, then 15 minutes in a nice bucket of ice and water will give it the perfect temperature,” Osselin says.

3. Give It A Little Air

Like all wine, Champagne requires a little bit of breathing room to open up, though not nearly as much as say a red Bordeaux. For a non-vintage bottle of Champagne, it’s best to let the wine drink up some air in the glass for one or two minutes before it touches your lips. According to Osselin, this helps release more of the wine’s aromas. If it’s a vintage bottle, she says it can need five to 10 minutes.

4. Chose The Right Glass

Flutes and coupe glasses are the most common type of glass for Champagne. Neither, however, are ideal for maximizing flavor. “The coupe is very beautiful and trendy, but it's for celebration, it's not for tasting,” says Osselin.

To get the most out of your Champagne, you might want to invest in a stemmed, wide tulip-shaped wine glass such as the Riedel Dom Perignon Glass. “It's the perfect combination of a flute and a wine glass because you have a part as a flute to see the bubbliness and the color of the wine,” Osselin says. “And then you have a part which is much more open to let the champagne breathe and concentrate the aromas.” If you don’t have this type of glass, Osselin says a white wine glass is an excellent alternative.

5. Hold It Low

The warmth of your hand will elevate the temperature of the Champagne through the glass rather quickly. A simple solution: take your glass by the stem. “If you take your glass by the upper part, then you will warm your wine,” says Osselin. However, there is a time and place to grab a glass of Champagne by the bowl. “If your champagne is too cold, you can use your hand to warm it a little bit,” she says.

6. Give It A Swirl

Just like other wines, giving Champagne a few swirls in the glass is a good idea. The act adds oxygen and helps wake up the aromas.

7. Don’t Dawdle

Once you open a bottle, drink it quickly. The bubbles go fast and flat Champagne isn’t nearly so nice. If you are a slower drinker, Osselin recommends you pour a glass (or two) and then pop the bottle back in the ice bucket with a stopper to preserve the effervescence. Try to finish it tout suite. Otherwise, the next day all it may be good for is cooking.

A Great Champagne Cocktail To Try

As many classics prove, Champagne makes for an excellent cocktail ingredient. There’s the traditional Champagne Cocktail, which sees a sugar cube in the bottom of a Champagne glass topped with a few dashes of bitters before the bubbly is added. There’s Ernest Hemmingway’s Death in the Afternoon. One and a half ounces of Absinthe are topped with 4 oz. of cold brut Champagne. ‘Papa’ liked his drinks easy — and frequent.

For the more mixologically adventurous, Marshall Minaya, beverage director at Madame George in New York recommends the Ritz Cocktail, a riff on another iconic Champagne tipple, the French 75.

“The Ritz creates an incredibly refreshing and bubbly cocktail,” says Minaya of the cocktail Dale DeGroff created in the mid-80’s while at the Aurora bar. A Sidecar meets a French 75 (if you will), with the grapes being the star of the show. “With a touch of lemon and Maraschino and a split of cognac and curacao all topped with a brut champagne and a flamed aromatized orange twist, the ingredients just work in harmony with one another,” says Minaya. Here’s how it’s made.

The Ritz Cocktail


  • ¾ oz Remy Martin 1738 Cognac
  • ¾ oz Giffard Curacao
  • ¼ oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
  • ¼ oz Lemon Juice
  • 1 ½ oz Brut Champagne

Garnish Flamed Orange Twist

Glassware: Chilled Coupe

Directions: Add lemon, maraschino, curacao, and cognac to a small tin, add ice and shake. Double Strain and top with Champagne. Express orange twist over a flame and garnish.