Mention the name Steva Casey to just about any craft-cocktail bartender in the U.S., and you’ll invariably get a big smile. A frequent traveler to cocktail festivals and other industry events, Casey is an enthusiastic ambassador for both the art of hospitality and her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, where she’s worked behind a who’s-who of the city’s top bars for more than a decade. (Thrillist even named her a “rebel changing the way we drink.”)
She’s also a big fan of sparkling wine. “I love bubbly in all forms, and it’s not just for celebration,” Casey says. “Champagne and sparkling wines are great cocktail ingredients because they provide so much purpose, adding flavor, alcohol, and effervescence all at once.”
Casey recommends using sweeter prosecco with such lighter-bodied spirits as vodka and gin, but with real-deal Champagne, she prefers stronger-flavored options, like whiskey, rum, cognac, or mezcal, the cousin of tequila that adds smoke and spice to her Joy Wagon cocktail. The drink combines equal parts mezcal, Champagne (choose a super-dry brut or extra brut bottling), and Lillet Rose, a fruity pink aperitif from France made from wine blended with citrus and berry liqueurs.
Casey created this cocktail for last year’s winter menu at Satellite, the cocktail bar at Birmingham music venue, Saturn, which Casey managed until recently. (She’s currently focusing on pop-ups and events, like Swingshift, a dinner series she created with a rotating cast of chefs from Birmingham and beyond.) Named for one of the old pulp novels that Satellite uses to present guests’ checks, the Joy Wagon makes for a delightful alternative to a traditional flute of bubbly as the clock strikes twelve.