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In Bars & Clubs

The bar room has a soft, warm feel.

In Bars & Clubs

The special event banquet hosts up to 200 people.

In Bars & Clubs

There are plenty of signs outside of ArtAsia to guide you to Cuvee.

Cuvee champagne lounge blends well in Third Ward

If you think about it hard enough, there's always a reason to celebrate ... something. At least, that's what Kimberly Floyd and Kris Gorski, the owners of Milwaukee's first champagne lounge, are banking on.

Champagne is undeniably a special occasion drink, associated with things like memorable wedding toasts, big promotion scores, and fancy Easter brunches. But the idea behind Cuvee -- which is pronounced coo-VAY and is a French word for wine referring to a blend -- is that a glass of bubbly can be so much more -- or less, depending on how you look at it.

With this in mind, Floyd opened Cuvee just over a month ago on the third floor of the Isabella Ryder Building at 177 N. Broadway. Like most cushy, modern lounges, the interior décor here is warm and plush, with several pillow-lined sofas surrounding a softly lit, circular bar in the center of the airy room.

Unlike many lounges, however, the music isn't overly ambient or dancey, but is more song-oriented (think Coldplay and Travis) and acts as an unobtrusive conversation complement.

The bar room isn't huge, but is roomy enough with back-lit floor-to-ceiling racks holding bottles of champagne on display in front of cream city brick walls. Large doors on the south wall open up into a spacious special event hall used for weddings, anniversaries or any reason people can find for a celebration.

Cuvee has a full bar, although the main menu's focus resembles that of a martini lounge. The lengthy list of champagne cocktails -- essentially a fruity martini list, substituting champagne for flavored vodkas -- ranges from the classic mimosa ($6), champagne and orange juice, to rarities such as the Bouzy $10 (named for a village in Champagne), which features dry gin, triple sec and champagne.

The sparkling wines by the glass range in price from the $5.50 Cristalino X-dry (Spain) to the $16 Taittinger Cuvee Prestige. The $12 Shingleback sparkling Shiraz "black bubbles" from Australia sounds especially intriguing.

Regular wine -- what Cuvee calls "still wine" -- is available in a Californian Stephen Vincent merlot as well as a Vouvray from France. Drinks come with a complementary chocolate truffle, and if one is just too much of a tease, they are available for purchase in increments of two, four and nine. The $10 cheese plate features Brie, Capri, Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Mobay, 8-year-old Cheddar, red grapes, crackers and nuts.

The small bar tables lining two side of the room come equipped with champagne cooling buckets and make for a nice, intimate drinking environment. Yet the real charm of Cuvee is in its multifaceted dynamic. The calm, smoke-free environment is nice and relaxing for a post-work happy hour stop as well as a hip spot to host a party -- something not all lounges in this city can accommodate.

Champagne might not always be on the forefront of your drinking itinerary, but here's to trying new things in Milwaukee. Cheers!


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