Since the 1800s when ringing in the New Year became a tradition in America, the drinks that have accompanied the requisite midnight toast have ranged from the ubiquitous glass of Champagne (Wayne Curtis traces the history here) to sparkling cocktails and punches. This year, we asked a handful of bartenders to re-imagine the midnight toast by picking classic cocktails that might benefit from a little sparkling wine. From Los Angeles to New York, these sparkling riffs on classic cocktails are sure to liven up your New Year’s Eve toast.
“The Sazerac is a timeless way to ring in any celebration, and New Year’s always calls for the addition of Champagne,” says William Elliott of Maison Premiere about his sparkling twist on the classic New Orleans cocktail. “The elegant simplicity of the Sazerac makes it an easy cocktail to execute at home, even for a large crowd.”
1 oz. rye whiskey (Elliott uses Wild Turkey 101)
¼ oz. rich simple syrup (2:1)
4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Absinthe, for coating the glass
Garnish: lemon peel
Fill a flute with crushed ice, then dash absinthe around the perimeter, coating the surface area of the glass. Empty the flute. In a mixing glass, stir the bitters, simple syrup and rye whiskey together with ice. Pour Champagne into the flute, then strain the ingredients from the mixing glass into the glass. Twist a lemon peel over the drink and balance on flute lip.
Sparkling Mai Tai
In this twist on the classic Mai Tai, Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove makes a simple but thoughtful modification to maintain a perfect balance of flavor (it’s also featured in his book). “The effervescence makes the citrus and almond notes bounce off the top, and the Champagne lends both a complimentary astringency and celebratory quality. It’s also easy to batch and serve at parties,” Cate says. “To serve several people, multiply the ingredient quantities by the number of guests. Combine all the ingredients except the sparkling wine and chill for an hour. When you’re ready to serve, pour 1¾ oz. of the chilled mix into each glass (no need to stir with ice) and top each with 4 oz. of chilled sparkling wine.”
¼ oz. Plantation O.F.T.D.
½ oz. Denizen Merchant’s Reserve rum
¼ oz. orgeat
½ oz. dry curaçao
¼ oz. fresh lime juice
4 oz. Champagne, chilled
Glass: flute or coupe
Garnish: lime twist and mint leaf
Pour all the ingredients except the Champagne into a mixing glass. Stir with ice. Strain into a chilled glass and top with Champagne, then garnish.
This recipe from Cari Hah of Big Bar in Los Angeles takes inspiration from the classic Harvey Wallbanger. “This version replaces vodka with Champagne, so you can think of it as a Mimosa with way more depth of flavor from the lovely herbal and vanilla notes in the Galliano,” she says.
½. oz. Galliano L’Autentico
1½ oz. fresh orange juice, chilled
4-5 oz. Champagne, chilled
Garnish: orange slice
In a flute, pour the Galliano and orange juice, then stir to combine. Top with Champagne.
This twist on the Bijou from Andrew Zerrip, head bartender at Olmsted, will require a little ingredient hunting to make, but Zerrip says the final result is totally worth it. “The Bijou lends itself to impressing guests for any celebration. It was named after its color, which has been said to be the combined colors of three jewels—diamond, ruby and emerald,” he says. “While it looks impressive, it’s a relatively simple drink to make. So you get to impress your guests without having to be behind the bar all evening.”
¾ oz. gin
¾ oz. green Chartreuse
¾ oz. quinquina
¼ oz. Escubac French liqueur
½ dash Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit bitters
2 oz. Champagne, chilled
Tools: mixing glass, barspoon, strainer
Garnish: brandied cherry
Stir all the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, then strain into a flute. Top with Champagne and garnish.
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