behind the bar: barbara merritt’s champagne cocktail

I am so excited to unveil this month’s Behind the Bar column!  Ever since my sister, Jillian, first introduced it to me, I have long admired the Portland, Maine store “chelliswilson.”  When I was finally able to visit the shop last November I was absolutely blown away, not only by the stop-in-your-tracks gorgeous shop but also by the oh-so-sweet owner, Barbara Merritt.  She brims with knowledge and has stocked her store with the most unique, beautiful and thoughtful creations.  It is a small, intimate store that packs a large punch!  I could have poked around, admiring each and every item for hours.  Every corner has a delightful surprise and just when you thought you had seen it all, you will find something else to lust after.  If HORNE were ever to have a physical incarnation, “chelliswilson.” would definitely be one of the places I would reference for inspiration.

When I approached Barbara for the Behind the Bar column I just knew she would add her own very special twist.  Today were are featuring a simply elegant drink accompanied by a wonderful story behind its creation.  Have a great weekend and we hope you enjoy Barbara’s Champagne cocktail, “The Marriage of True Minds.” [Alissa + Ryan]

P.S. Make sure to check out Barbara’s Blog – it is full of droolworthy inspiration!

CLICK HERE for the full drink recipe (and more photos) after the jump!


4 ounces chilled Champagne (we used Vilmart & Cie  Grand Cellier)

1 ounce cognac (for the sake of tradition, Courvoisier V.S.O.P is essential)

1 brown sugar cube

3 drops Angostura bitters


Drop bitters onto sugar cube and allow to soak in.  Place sugar cube in a beautiful Champagne flute, add cognac, top with Champagne.  Toast!

Why I chose this drink:

My mother coyly renamed the Champagne cocktail “The Marriage of True Minds” because it was a heady mixture of her favorite libation (French Champagne) and my father’s (cognac—but always Courvoisier V.S.O.P.).  On their anniversary and other occasions of triumph and celebration, she would lift her glass in Dad’s honor and recite these lines from her favorite Shakespearean sonnet:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no! It is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken…

While “chelliswilson.” is more nourishing collaboration than grand romance, I have an equal devotion to all the “marriages” that help me create this space.  Aesthetics and Integrity. Art and Commerce. Work and Friendship.  Even our name is a marriage (“chellis” and “wilson” are two fashionable characters from family lore).  My partners are the dearest people in my life.  These photographs were taken by wonderful friend and collaborator, Maria Alexander Vettese, in the company of my oldest friend, with my daughter ably assisting.  The workday doesn’t get much better than that…

  1. lucy says:

    yay!! absolutely adore barbara and her aesthetic. was just in the store this week and soaked up the atmosphere and barbara’s loveliness!

  2. How lovely to see my favorite poem of all time in such an unexpected place and with a sweet story to accompany it. Thanks for the unique spin on the bubbly, I look forward to sharing it with someone deserving of the poem’s sentiment.

  3. Kate says:

    ¡Felicidades! Fantastic article and photos. And I love the sonnet and the sentiment behind it. You are an inspiration to all.

  4. alethea says:

    i am in love with barbara’s mind, vision for all things lovely and good– she is such a wealth of information, stories, strength, trueisms, and one of portland’s most divine treasures


  5. Amanda says:

    A version of this drink exists, cognac and champagne, featured on the show Three Sheets a few years back. Skip the bitters and sugar, I say!

  6. d&d says:

    a great portland store! glad to see her on this!

  7. Wow. This is the most wonderful experience. Thank you all. I’m fortunate to have so many extraordinarily supportive people in my life. I love you all!

  8. Mmmm. Champagne Cocktails are my favorite. And this lovely story makes them even better!

  9. What a delish recipe and lovely shop! I make a mean Lillet and Basil cocktail. But this is definitely inspiring me to switch it up!

  10. monica says:

    I love champagne cocktails, I will definitely be trying this one out!

  11. Kirsten says:

    We are having my parents for dinner tonight to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary–I feel compelled to serve this and to recite the sonnet! Thanks so much for sharing!

  12. AlpineGypsy says:

    Lovely, lovely~

    Champagne and French Cognac….it sounds marvelous!

    I’ve also had a wonderful libation of Champagne and a tiny spoonful of Wild Rose Jelly at the bottom~ It was superlative! Anyways, I would approve of this most sophisticated nip. Thanks for the tip. *wink*


  13. Can’t wait to try this out. Champagne is my beverage of choice but I am always up for trying a few cocktails that incorporate it.

  14. What a lovely cocktail and story! Thank you.

  15. max says:

    Mmmm, champagne…It will become my favourite cocktail, I’m sure.

  16. IVY says:



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