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Wine Series: Champagne Dreams

“My only regret is that I have not drunk more Champagne in my life,” said the British economist John Maynard Keynes. And we couldn’t agree more. Matija Rajak, the Beverage Director and Operations Manager at Ascent Lounge New York, which is part of The Restaurant and Bar Collection at New York’s Time Warner Center, tells why you should be drinking more Champagne, starting right now. Pop open the bubbly!

Ascent Lounge Bartender
Ascent Lounge Cocktail


First off, what's the difference between Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, and sparkling wine?

Champagne, Cava, and Prosecco are all types of sparkling wine. Even though we all use the word “Champagne” informally, that label is technically incorrect, depending on where the grapes are grown. To be considered Champagne, the grapes have to be harvested in Champagne, France. The same goes for Cava, which has to be grown in Spain, and Prosecco in Italy. Champagne and Cava are fermented in the bottle, while Prosecco is fermented in giant metal vats, called the Charmat method.

What do you love about Champagne?

My passion is working with spirits and crafting new cocktails in interesting forms and combinations. I like to use Champagne to balance some of the bold flavors and add texture to the drink. It has a light, crisp taste and it’s generally on the sweeter side, so it’s a natural fit for the refreshing drinks that people tend to go for in the summer.

Champaigne Tray
Ascent Lounge Entrance


You make some great Champagne cocktails at Ascent Lounge. What are some of your favorites?

“The Ascent” is my twist on the French 75. It combines Bombay Sapphire East gin, Domaine De Canton Ginger Liqueur, fresh muddled raspberries, fresh squeezed lemon juice, rose water, and Veuve Clicquot Champagne. My “Mango Bellini” is a mix of fresh mango puree, mango-flavored vodka, Nektar Liqueur, fresh squeezed lime juice, and Prosecco.

Ascent Lounge Main Room
Ascent Lounge Cocktail

What's the best way to drink Champagne?

It should be chilled and served at a temperature between 40 to 50 degrees. The glass should be filled a third or halfway — maximum — so the champagne doesn’t get warm. And important: Hold the glass by the stem, not by the body, because your hands will warm the liquid.

What are your three favorite bottles right now?

Some of my favorites include Dom Perignon P3 1985, Dom Perignon Rosé, and Louis Roederer Cristal Brut. All are available at Ascent Lounge New York!

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