New Year’s Eve is a great excuse to drink sparkling wine, whether you’re reaching for the Champagne, the Prosecco, or the André. Regardless of what your palate and wallet allow, don’t stop at popping the bubbly — this New Year’s Eve, get in tune with your inner aspiring mixologist. We have 14 easy drink recipes that are sure to wow whether or not you know what you’re doing with a tumbler, as well as some tips to help you look like a pro.
First, saying it right. The general and correct term for bubbly is sparkling wine. Only sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France can be called Champagne. Likewise, Prosecco is from the Veneto region of Italy — though it’s named for the town of Prosecco, which is actually not in the DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) region. There are other exceptions, such as cava, which is from the Catalonia region of Spain.
Second, pairing it right. Some sparkling cocktails are better with sweet wine, while others should really be kept to dry wine — dry being the opposite of sweet in wine terminology — and dry sparkling wine tends to pair better with food than a sweeter one. If you’re buying real Champagne, look for the word “Brut,” and you’ll have a dry wine. Otherwise, the level of dryness falls in this order: extra dry, dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet, and sweet. Don’t assume that a bottle of rosé bubbly is sweet, either: Many regions that produce sparkling wine focus on dry rosés.
Third, serving it right.
- Obviously, you don’t want to open the bottle long before serving it. Like anything else that’s carbonated (i.e., soda), sparkling wine can and will go flat, and your party will probably follow suit. Likewise, when mixing your cocktails, don’t shake your bubbly. Shake your other ingredients, pour them in the glass, and then top with the wine.
- It needs to be very cold. Ice bucket cold. Forget to chill the wine? Don’t panic: Fill a bucket halfway with warm water, dump two cups of salt in (which is why you want warm water), stir, and fill the bucket with ice. Stick your bottle in the bucket and watch as it magically chills in less than half an hour.
- Be very careful uncorking the bottle. Do not point it at anyone, do not let the cork fly away wildly, and do not shake the bottle before opening. Carefully unscrew the cage, cover the cork with a tea towel, and slowly twist the cork up and out. There’s honestly not a huge risk of dying from an errant cork, but there is a big risk of eye injuries.
- Want to get really fancy? Check out this video from Food52 and open your bottle with a saber. Be ready to turn around and let the overflow run straight into party guests’ glasses, because wasting wine is such a shame.
Now for the cocktails. As always, please drink responsibly.
1. Lemon-gin sparkling cocktail
This recipe from Cooking Light is based off one of the most well-known Champagne cocktails of all time, the French 75. It calls for frozen lemonade concentrate, but if you have time and want serious mixologist street cred, boil your own lemon simple syrup by following the steps below.
Directions: Peel one lemon, avoiding as much of the white pith as possible, and add the strips of zest to a small pot. (Bonus: You’re practicing for garnishes!) Add 1 cup sugar, 2/3 cup water, and 1/3 cup lemon juice. Bring to a simmer, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, strain, and chill.
2. Crush and swizzle
Hailing from NYC Piora bartender Kyle Ridington via Saveur, this cocktail combines pomegranate juice, white rum, simple syrup, and Prosecco.
Seeing as pomegranate is a superfood packed with antioxidants and vitamins, we’re going to pretend it’s in line with our New Year’s resolutions.
3. Two-ingredient Nardini spritz
As easy as it is classy, Food52 shows us how to turn two liquids and a garnish into one snazzy drink. You can even sound like a pro by asking how potent your guest likes his or her drink and adjusting the Amaro Nardini accordingly — turn the balanced 3/4 ounce in the recipe to 1/2 ounce for a sweet smile and to a full ounce for a real kick.
Note: Not for licorice haters!
4. Sparkling citrus margaritas
It’s winter. We’re steering clear of the strawberry spritzers and the peach Bellinis because, let’s face it, those fruits just aren’t as good out of season. But since January is the real start of citrus season, we see no problem endorsing a fruity cocktail like this one from Sweet Life, adapted from “Mexico One Plate at a Time” by Rick Bayless.
Feel free to tone down the amount of tequila in each drink if you feel that 3 ounces is a little too much for you.
5. Negroni sbagliato (broken Negroni)
The Negroni has been making a comeback in the cocktail world this year, and we can’t think of a better way to celebrate its return to style than to pour some Champagne over it. Mixologist David Welch of the Sunshine Tavern in Portland, Oregon, shared this recipe with Saveur, and we think it deserves some time in your tumbler this New Year’s Eve.
6. Champagne mojitos
Chances are, it’s cold where you are. You should forget your winter worries with a Champagne mojito. Is it not cold where you are? You should probably celebrate with a Champagne mojito.
The first step in this recipe from Food & Wine is creating your own simple syrup, but you’ve probably already done that, right? Great. You’re ahead of the game.
7. Champagne limoncello cocktails
Limoncello, a lemon liquor produced in Italy, is awfully strong on its own but mellows nicely in a glass of sparkling wine.
Though we appreciate the inclusion of Champagne from Cooking Light on New Year’s Eve, we’d have to go with Prosecco on this one to keep with the regional Italian theme — it just feels right. The sugared rim, though, is a great touch.
There are plenty of reasons to drink this concoction from Imbibe: it’s called airmail, which is why we all expected our packages to get to our doorsteps on time this holiday season; it’s a little bit tropical with the añejo rum and lime juice; and the orange blossom honey just makes this drink luscious. We all need something a little luscious now and then.
9. The Daisy Buchanan
With the release of Baz Luhrmann’s silver screen rendition of The Great Gatsby in 2013 and considering that Gatsby was such a party man, we couldn’t imagine this year’s New Year’s Eve party without a nod to the classic.
This drink, developed by Andrew Hotis of Heirloom in New Haven, Connecticut, and brought to us by Saveur, is the picture of Daisy Buchanan herself: feminine, ephemeral, and, with a ragged-cut strip of lemon peel as a garnish, a little rough around the edges.
It’s warm with calvados, delicate with pear liquor, and rich with Champagne. A tall flute of this Daisy would have Gatsby stopped dead in his tracks, guaranteed.
10. Champagne cosmopolitan
Another riff on another classic, this sparkling cosmo from Inspired Taste is the perfect answer to a party standard that needs to be dressed up a bit for New Year’s. Do pick up a sweeter bottle of bubbly for this one to balance the tart cranberry juice, as the recipe does not include simple syrup.
11. Clementine and red wine spritzers
Now for something a little different. Not a fan of traditional white sparkling wine? We have you covered with this fun, easy, and visually stunning spritzer from Joy the Baker.
It’s not just the clementine soda making this a spritzer: the wine of choice here is a dry, sparkling red Lambrusco. If you can’t find it, though, Joy suggests a Granache or Gamay — definitely unoaked.
To really get the stratified layers, pour the red wine into the glass slowly over the bowl of an upside down spoon, like this.
12. Cork County bubbles
James Jameson puts on his party clothes with the makings of a Toddy, a splash of yellow Chartreuse, and a bottle of sparkling wine.
According to Food & Wine, mixologist John Coltharp likes to use 12-year Jameson whiskey, but you could use any Irish whiskey here. Just don’t pour in Bushmills and call it a Cork County cocktail — you may start a new rebellion.
13. The Resolution
Does a new year go by without making resolutions? Don’t let this one be different: just make this resolution from Food52 instead. Pick up a bottle of absinthe because it’s fun to say you had it — don’t worry, the U.S. regulates its absinthe, so you won’t be dancing with any green fairies — and use it as a rinse (swirl to coat the glass and then dump the absinthe out) before assembling your cocktail of Cointreau, bitters, and Champagne.
14. The Long Hello
According to Saveur, this drink refers to an obscure ’70s rock album but was made by Damon Boelte of NYC’s Prime Meats for wedding toasts. Either way, it sounds like a party fit for the coming of 2014 and could be the basis of this year’s toast.
With apple brandy, barrel-aged bitters, and grated nutmeg, it promises to be an awfully warm “hello” indeed.