Aerostat Firefly Champagne Cocktails

Sizzling Champagne Cocktails

In the quiet hush under a waning, quarter moon onyx sky, our group gathered… hoodies pulled up and hands shoved in pockets as we wiggled to stay warm in the cool Coachella Valley. Temperatures during the day were almost unbearably hot, yet incredibly, the desert nights were so easily transformed with just a touch of cold air.

Our crew from Fantasy Flights scrambled to lay out tarps and stretch the balloons to their full length. Baskets were tipped and hot air blasted from smaller propane burners, directed to fill and lift the mammoth nylon envelopes.  Repeated gusts whooshed until the balloon gracefully took shape and lifted off the desert floor.

Passenger baskets tilted upright and we clambered on board as ballast. What struck me most was the absence of sound.

With no fanfare and almost a sigh, we began our ascent into the starry night… bidding farewell to our crew on the ground.

Justin Wilkinson is a second generation pilot, following in his father’s footsteps. I love that you can see and hear his absolute passion for what he does… it’s how I feel when I play the cello…

We were silenced by the majestic beauty of the sun as it began it’s own ascent above the Little San Bernardino Mountains to the East. We floated towards it and were blessed with a panoramic view of the earth awakening below.

We were silent witnesses, each of us lost in thought as we felt so fortunate to experience this moment together.

Dogs howled at the insult of the high-pitched squeal of the aerostat and ran tormented for cover.  Drowsy dwellers wandered outside to calm their dogs and find the source of all the commotion… and waved a greeting in passing.

I have never felt safer, enclosed in our wicker cocoon with a master pilot steering our flight. I felt as though I had flown straight into the pages of a child’s fantasy book. It seemed surreal to be able to float… it was the closest feeling to the solo flight I had made in my dreams a few nights before. It might sound trite… but I felt closer to God that morning and a witness to the miracle that is our planet.

With bent knees and a relaxed grip, we made a completely effortless descent and landing. Our ground crew caught up with us in their trucks and anchored us safely back on earth.

We celebrated, with a simple glass of champagne and orange juice to toast our maiden voyage. I can’t wait to go back with my family. I’m so grateful that my friends were there to share in this experience. It’s so important to step aside from our day-to-day lives and to try something completely out of our normal realm.

I’ve started writing my Bucket List:

1.  Hot Air Balloon Ride – check

Today’s recipe is a heavenly cranberry champagne cocktail, filled with sparkling bubbles like stars and as red as the flame in our balloon.  It was shaken not stirred over ice for us by my friend J from Blaylock Manor. A few of these and I promise you will be flying high♥

Aerostat Firefly Champagne Cocktails

Rating: 51

Aerostat Firefly Champagne Cocktails


1 oz cranberry juice

a splash of triple sec (thanks Cheryl)

2 oz vodka

1/2 oz Champagne


Pour only cranberry juice and vodka into a martini shaker filled with ice. Shake and pour into martini glasses about 1/2 full. Then top glasses up with Champagne. Garnish with frozen blueberries and raspberries.


  • thecompletecookbook - October 25, 2011 - 6:57 am

    A W E S O M E !!!
    :-) MandyReplyCancel

    • Just A Smidgen - October 25, 2011 - 6:59 am

      It was an awesome experience Mandy… now I have to catch up on everyone’s blogs:)ReplyCancel

  • Jordana - October 25, 2011 - 7:26 am

    Hi Barb,
    I just awarded you a Versatile Blogger award. Details here:

    • Just A Smidgen - October 25, 2011 - 10:40 am

      Thanks so much, Jordana! This is the second time to be awarded:) I love your blog as well!!ReplyCancel

  • Gretchen O'Donnell - October 25, 2011 - 10:10 am

    I have always wanted to fly in a hot-air balloon. Thanks for taking us on your ride! Great description!ReplyCancel

  • Courtney - October 25, 2011 - 12:51 pm

    Hot air ballon rides are definitely on my bucket list, too! Your descriptions and pictures are amazing!ReplyCancel

    • Just A Smidgen - October 25, 2011 - 8:02 pm

      Thanks Courtney! It wasn’t on my list (it was a surprise excursion)… but it should have been!ReplyCancel

  • Kay aka Babygirl - October 25, 2011 - 1:02 pm

    I am not a drinker, but I do enjoy a good champagne so I may actually try out this Champagne Cocktail.. but without the vodka lol. And the balloon ride photos.. amazing!ReplyCancel

    • Just A Smidgen - October 25, 2011 - 8:03 pm

      I think you could easily substitute as well… it’s a simple recipe that’s for sure:) Glad you liked my photos.ReplyCancel

  • Kristy - October 25, 2011 - 1:12 pm

    Wow! That sounds like an amazing adventure. I’ve always wanted to do that. I think it’s actually on my “bucket list” (I wrote it when I was 16). LOL. And I’m so glad to have found your blog now too. I was actually looking for a cocktail recipe like this a few weeks back when we made sushi. I don’t think I’ll be waiting for our next sushi adventure to try this one though – I think it looks just about right for Friday evening!ReplyCancel

    • Just A Smidgen - October 25, 2011 - 8:04 pm

      Friday can’t come soon enough for me! I wish I’d written a bucket list sooner. I think I have my daughter talked into writing one. If nothing else, it’s awesome to read later on.ReplyCancel

  • Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial - October 25, 2011 - 1:20 pm

    Oh..WOW! What amazing photos – it must have been an awesome experience! We’ve only ever been up in a tethered balloon, but to be floating free must have been something else! Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

    • Just A Smidgen - October 25, 2011 - 8:05 pm

      It really was so peaceful, it moved so slowly. They take care to only fly on the “perfect day” so there was no risk involved.ReplyCancel

  • ceciliag - October 25, 2011 - 2:57 pm

    that must have been tremendous!! you lucky girl and i am dying to try the drinkies! cReplyCancel

  • TasteFood - October 25, 2011 - 4:22 pm

    What a fantastic experience. Love the drinks!ReplyCancel

  • ChgoJohn - October 25, 2011 - 5:25 pm

    Great cocktail but that ride! WOW! Sunrise in an air ballon. Incredible!ReplyCancel

  • kathryningrid - October 25, 2011 - 6:26 pm

    Smidge, my darling, what a lovely romance-of-the-air. I’m so glad you got to do this! And that I got to do so vicariously.ReplyCancel

  • thedrivencook - October 25, 2011 - 6:45 pm

    I love anything with champagne!ReplyCancel

    • Just A Smidgen - October 25, 2011 - 8:08 pm

      It always feels like a celebration whenever champagne is popped open, doesn’t it!ReplyCancel

  • Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide - October 25, 2011 - 8:01 pm

    Awesome photos and a great champagne recipe to boot!ReplyCancel

    • Just A Smidgen - October 25, 2011 - 8:09 pm

      Thanks, Greg! Pretty straight-forward compared to some of your wonderfully concocted drinks:)ReplyCancel

  • cityhippyfarmgirl - October 25, 2011 - 11:29 pm

    How wonderful! I’ve never gone up in a balloon before, but I can just imagine that peacefulness as the sun rises and the balloons travels on.ReplyCancel

    • Just A Smidgen - October 28, 2011 - 4:53 pm

      It was so incredible! And not scary for a second… I would love to do it again:)ReplyCancel

  • Desserts In My Kitchen - October 26, 2011 - 9:38 am

    This is just beautiful! The photos are amazing. I’ve never been in a hot air balloon before, but I will definitely go within the near future, This is absolutely stunning :) ReplyCancel

  • niasunset - October 26, 2011 - 12:42 pm

    Oh, dear Smidgen, what a beautiful experience you shared with us. Do you know, what was the most impressive point for me, I learned that you play cello… I have no idea about being on a balloon and also the feeling of play a cello… But I love both of them, and you try to imagine in my mind. You are amazing and you expressed so beautifully, it wasn’t difficult to imagine myself into this dreamy voyage. Thank you, your photographs are so nice too and the cocktails! Congratulations by the way for this award, you deserve always. Blessing and Happiness, with my love, niaReplyCancel

  • niasunset - October 26, 2011 - 12:44 pm

    sorry! It should be “I try to imagine in my mind”… :) ReplyCancel

    • Just A Smidgen - October 28, 2011 - 4:55 pm

      It was dreamy.. that is the perfect way to describe it! I discovered the cello a few years ago and just love it:)ReplyCancel

  • rutheh - November 1, 2011 - 11:48 pm

    Enjoyed your post and sent it to my sister who is planning to take her first hot air balloon ride after my daughter’s wedding next week. Great photos.ReplyCancel

    • Just A Smidgen - November 2, 2011 - 6:07 am

      I can’t speak for other companies of course, but if it’s anything like our trip… she’ll absolutely love it! Great idea for after a wedding!ReplyCancel

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