Happy New Year! Some Champagne Cocktails to Ring In the New Year

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy New Year!

What better way to ring in the new year than with champagne! I don't know about you, but I get bored of the simple glass of the golden bubbly sometimes. Sometimes I want something crazier, something more fanciful, something...more wow.

And thus champagne cocktails are born! Often combined with various fruit juices and other liquors, these cocktails transform champagne (or let's face it, most of us can afford sparkling wine) into something even more delicious. I'm a HUGE fan of champagne cocktails. They're quite tasty and a nice departure from the mundane without getting too heavy and crazy like other cocktails. But don't let these recipes fool you -- they pack a punch so drink responsibly!

I am happy to report that this was by far the most fun posting to research and photograph. I got absolutely sloshed making these and tasting them in order to produce this blog. So it's all for you readers!! These are great and can be made with readily available ingredients and liquors to suit your tastes and budget. Champagnes and sparkling wines range from sweet to very dry, so use which ever one you like. I like to balance out the cocktails by using a drier champagne if I'm working with fruit juices or nectars, and sweeter champagnes if working with harder liquors and spirits.

Try one for this year's New Year celebration!

First off, we have:

The Reserve Basilica with Mint

Sweet notes from chambourd pair nicely with spicy dark rum and refreshing mint. Although the recipe originally calls for basil, I substituted with mint with much success. Add some ice cubes and serve in a larger wine glass for a super refreshing cocktail. Just perfect for warmer climate New Year's celebrations like for my friends back in California!

Reserve Basilica 
splash of unspiced rum (recommend: Mount Gay)
splash of chambourd
top with champagne  (given the sweetness of chambourd, I'd use a drier champagne)
ice cubes
fresh mint for garnish

Place a splash of rum and chambourd in the bottom of a wine glass. Add a few ice cubes (3-4) and top with champagne. Top with fresh mint and serve.

French 75

Although this classic French cocktail is traditionally made with gin, sugar, lemon and champagne, cognac can be faithfully substituted for the gin. And I say thank god because I don't do gin thanks to a 21st birthday party eons ago that involved one too many olive martinis. Anyhoo, this combination is wonderfully refreshing, the sugar and lemon giving a punch of brightness and sweetness to the cocktail and a big kick from the gin or cognac makes these rather dangerous. In fact, the French 75 was so named at Harry's New York Bary in Paris back in 1915 for the gin/cognac kick that felt like getting hit with a French 75mm howitzer. And believe me, after a couple of these on an emtpy stomach, you'll understand what I mean. The cocktail is also known as a Soixante Quinze in French and remains a popular classic throughout the world even today.

French 75
1/2 tsp superfine sugar or 1 cube of white sugar
splash of cognac
squeeze of fresh lemon
garnish: lemon twist or cherry

Place the sugar or sugar cube in the bottom of a champagne class and add a splash of cognac right on top and the lemon juice. Holding the glass by the stem, gently swish it around to help the sugar dissolve a little. Top with champagne and garnish with lemon twist or cherry. Do not stir.

Velvet Swing

This isn't a well known champagne cocktail, but one that I think could become popular especially among the guys. Most champagne cocktails are "girly" and thus turn off the males -- they're pretty colors, served and garnished in fancier glasses with things like raspberries and frilly mint. This champagne cocktail is decidedly more simple -- especially if you leave out the rose petals -- and packs a heavier and bitter punch from the port and cognac. I love the darker color too, and drinking it from a wine glass as opposed from a champagne flute.

The traditional garnish for this is a dramatic sprinkling of rose petals. I'm not sure of the exact genesis of this cocktail, but am going to guess it was born in Victorian times because of the rose petals when rose water and petals were a desired flavor and garnish especially in cocktails. If anyone has any information I'd love to know more, so give feedback in the comment section! If you want to make a different drink for Valentine's Day or an anniversary around New Year's, this might be your drink. Just remember to use organic petals that weren't sprayed with fertilizer -- they can be found at organic food stores like Whole Foods. Or your own garden if you don't use fertizlier on your flowers.

Velvet Swing

splash of cognac
good splash of port wine
rose petals for garnish

Add a splash of cognac to a small wine glass. Top with a good splash of port wine and top with champagne. Garnish with orange twist or edible rose petals.

Kir Royale

My favorite cocktail of all time. The Kir Royal will never go out of style for me. Ever. I could be 26 or 62 and I'll still drink a Kir or one of its variants.

The Kir Royal is the basic kir cocktail, which includes creme de cassis and white wine, but the white wine is substituted with champagne instead. The Kir is named after Felix Kir, the mayor of Dijon in Burgundy, France. As the story goes, he offered the kir cocktails as refreshments to international delegets post WWII in an effort to popularize local ingredients. Creme de cassis is a liquor made from black currants in Dijon, Burgundy. The resulting cocktail was a hit and is still enjoyed throughout the world today.

There are many variations using the Kir as a basis besides the Kir Royal. A Kir Petillant uses sparkling wine instead of champagne, a Pink Russian uses milk in addition to the basic kir, The Cardinal uses red wine instead of white, and other fruit liquors can be added like raspberry and peach to distinguish those versions. Even cider can be substituted for the wine.

Whichever you choose, the Kir Royal is not only a pretty cocktail but extremely tasty.

Kir Royal
splash of creme de cassis liquor
lemon twist garnish (optional

Place a splash of creme de cassis in the bottom of a fluted champagne glass and top with champagne. Garnish with lemon twist if desired.

Poire William

I never had this cocktail until I researched for this blog and I'm not in love. If I was going to cheat on the Kir Royal, it would be with the Poire William. The main flavoring agent here is the potently sweet Poire William liquor. Poire William is a pear liquor made in france, where they take glass bottles and place them on pear branches, letting the pears grow into the bottles. It's quite something to see in spring and summer apparently -- these orchards filled with glistening trees as the glass reflects off the sun. The resulting pear offers more flavor and intensifies the pear liquor that is then poured inside the bottle. It's very expensive, but incredible. This cocktail is simply this wonderfully sweet liquor with champange. You can use any pear brandy (I couldn't find Poire William so I used a darker pear brandy) and I like the pretty mint garnish on top, which is optional. Your resulting drink will range from pale to golden depending on what pear liquor or brandy you use.

Poire William
splah of pear brandy
mint garnish (optional)

Place a splash of pear brandy in the bottom of a champagne class and top with champagne. Garnish with fresh mint if desired.

And remember the first rule of champagne or sparkling wine cocktails: make sure your champagne is well chilled before use!

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