What is ‘à la Piscine?’

Last month, my sister and I had the privilege of visiting our Auntie Liz at her home in the South of France. It was only 8 days, but my God, we packed a lot into our limited time together. Her house is near St. Tropez, but we also spent a night at the famed Negresco Hotel in Nice and it was while we were there that we were first introduced to ‘à la Piscine.’

We were out for my sister’s birthday dinner and thought a glass (or two) of champagne was in order. We noticed you could get a regular ‘coupe’ (glass), or the à la Piscine (by the pool, in French) version for an extra 3 Euros. Curious, we asked our server what that was…

He explained (in French) that it was served with ice, which immediately went nowhere with us. (I was thinking — they want to charge me 3 Euros to put ICE in my champagne? No way!) Not to mention that it would dilute the magical elixir… He tried a little harder, telling us it was “extremely popular in France,” but still, we didn’t bite.

We returned to St. Tropez and really didn’t think about it again until we were sitting at Senequier (pictured above) at the Port, having our daily glass of rosé with lunch and noticed we had the option to have it à la Piscine too! So, it wasn’t just champagne the French were adding ice to these days, it was rosé as well? What on earth? But still, we didn’t try it…

By now you may be wondering where this post is going and what it might have to do with the events we help plan. Well, your patience is about to be rewarded…

When we returned home to Canada, we were telling the rest of our family about this crazy French Trend we kept seeing — only THIS time, my sister decided to Google it and we were shocked to read the key piece of information the server in Nice neglected to mention: the “ice” is actually frozen little cubes of champagne! Or rosé, depending on what you’re drinking… Now the extra charge for “ice” made sense: frozen alcohol, floating in the alcohol! Oh la la!

Needless to say, we wasted no time getting to a liquor store to purchase specimens and have just spent the entire long weekend perfecting the technique, because I plan to serve this at all my parties this coming summer!

Here’s what we learned, after bottles and bottles of experimentation, all in the Name of Science:

1: It takes almost half a bottle to fill an ice cube tray (and really, this tray’s partitions were too small — you want to make bigger cubes).

2. We tried it both in the old-school coupe glasses and the more modern flutes; it works (and for some reason tastes better because of the ice-to-volume-of-champagne ratio) in the taller glasses.

3. You’ll want to make a fair bit of “ice” — because the alcohol content won’t let it freeze completely; it therefore melts faster than regular ice.

4. It works beautifully with rosé too. I love how the cubes look like little blobs of jelly…

5. The French are really on to something here: for the hot summer months, both of these drinks tasted that much more refreshing, just because they were colder. And somehow, the frozen cubes added a little bit of je ne sais quoi  that we never realized was lacking before!

6. Vive la France!

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