In a few days, we will say goodbye to 2008 and usher in 2009. New Years Eve is a time to reflect on the past year and celebrate the new possibilities and excitement of the coming year. Across the world, people will be popping corks and drinking champagne, cava, prosecco or some other form of bubbly beverage.
Champagne, of course, is that fizzy white wine from the Champagne region of France. Cava is champagne’s Spanish brother while prosecco is the Italian sister. Learn about more types of sparkling wines here.
Whatever you call it, sparkling wine is a wonderful way to ring in the New Year. It’s festive, tasty and looks great in a glass. Ahhh, but even though it is wonderful all by it’s lonesome, champagne makes an excellent addition to cocktails.
One of the great things about champagne is its versatility. One word of warning though – whichever type of sparkling wine you use for cocktails taste it first. Many sparkling wines are very dry, also called “Brut.” This dryness comes for a relatively low amount of sugar. But the opposite is also true, some sparkling wines are incredibly sweet. You’ll need to figure this out before mixing cocktails in order to achieve the proper balance.
Before the New Year celebrations begin, I want to share with you a few classic champagne based cocktails. First, is the aptly named “Champagne Cocktail.”
1 sugar cube
Saturate the sugar cube with Angostura bitters. Pour a flute of champagne and drop in the sugar cube. Watch the pretty fizz.
Honestly, the sugar cube and the bitters don’t bring much to the party. As the sugar cube breaks down, the bitters are released into the drink but not enough to drastically alter the taste of the champagne. The sugar just kind of sits in the bottom of the glass and without stirring it up (and releasing a lot of the bubbles in the process) it doesn’t do much good either. But it certainly makes for a striking presentation!
Another classic champagne (or sparkling wine) cocktail is one of my favorites, the French 75.
1oz lemon juice
2 bar spoons simple syrup
-Shake gin, lemon juice and simple syrup with ice and strain into a chilled champagne flute. Top with champagne. Garnish with a spiral of lemon peel and a maraschino cherry.
The French 75 is, to me, what a champagne cocktail should be. It is sweet, tart, fizzy and packs a nice little punch (almost like a piece of artillery . . . ) from the gin. This is a pure crowd-pleaser – not even the self-described gin haters would turn down this cocktail. Feel free to play around with the types of gin you use to find what works best for you. I’ve used Plymouth, Aviation and Hendrick’s to great success. Each creates a slightly different profile on the final product and each was very (hic!) enjoyable!
Finally, feel free to experiment with creations of your own. Sparkling wine is a fantastic base to create your own house cocktails. While prepping for this article, I had just finished a batch of spiced pumpkin liqueur. (Keep your eyes open to the Scofflaw’s Den for more about that!) I decided to take my own advice and see if I could come up with something unique and festive using champagne and the spiced pumpkin liqueur. What I came away with is
A Sweet Ending
2oz Amber Rum
1oz Spiced Pumpkin Liqueur
Dry/Brut Sparkling Wine
-Shake the rum and liqueur with ice and strain into a chilled champagne flute. Top with the dry sparkling wine of your choice.
The name is derived from the sweet ending of a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal – usually pumpkin pie at my house. But it also serves as a reminder that this is the ending of one year and the beginning of the next.
So there you have it. Go out and buy a few bottles of your favorite sparkling wine and experiment with some cocktails of your own. You and you’re guests will love the versatility and creativity that champagne cocktails bring to the party.
Have a Happy (and Safe) New Year! Cheers!