The challenge, then, is to maximize the delight without inviting the regret. For us, the solution is the magnum. A large bottle holding 1.5 liters, or two ordinary bottles, the magnum is big enough to be impressive without edging over into mayhem. Nonetheless, produce a chilled magnum of something nice and plant it on the coffee table in front of your friends and it changes the dynamic almost as much as if you had produced the other kind of Magnum, the Dirty-Harry-do-you-feel-lucky-punk one. (In this case, the answer is "Yes, I do.") Split two ways, it will fuel an unforgettable night (and make for a morning that is, if not out-and-out rocky, at least a little gravelly); three, it's a memorable toot; four, a fine beginning. Even split among six, it offers more than a token toast. But it's not just the number of glasses it contains that makes the magnum such an engine of delight, or even the reputation it has for producing a champagne that is, all things otherwise being equal, tastier than that from a smaller bottle. It's the promise it contains.
A single bottle of champagne goes quick, too damned quick. There may be more or there may not. Even if there's another bottle at hand, you'll wonder if they're going to open it or they'll wonder if you are. With a magnum, more isn't a plan or a contingency. It's a reality, right there in the bottle. You can drink your first glass, the one that opens the afferent pathways of the brain, secure in the knowledge that the second, the booster, will follow—and if the group is a small one, so will the third, the exhilarator, and perhaps the fourth, the one that makes your head feel like it's bobbing on a string. We find that awareness to be almost as effective at loosening us up as the champagne itself.
As for the champagne: If your friends are deeply geeky in the world of wines, you can pop a magnum of, say, Bruno Paillard Brut Première Cuvée or Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, confident that they'll be impressed. (For ordinary drinkers, though, it's safest to stick to the big, famous producers.) Part of the appeal of a magnum is the extravagance behind it; if it's going to work, people have to know that it's special. We've always been partial to Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label, but we hope we'll never be so snobby as to turn down a glass or three of Moët or Mumm or Perrier-Jouët or their ilk. You don't break out a magnum of champagne to celebrate connoisseurship. You do it to celebrate the joy that comes from having friends to walk beside you on your crooked path through this world.
Published in Esquire By: DAVID WONDRICH.
Photo Credit: Tim Graham