Whether you’re celebrating out on the town, somewhere abroad, or at home with someone special, champagne cocktails are a great way to welcome in the New Year.
Champagne; it’s synonymous with celebration, so chances are you’ll be popping a few bottles to mark the end of one year and the start of another. However, Champagne (or the many variations of sparkling wine, which include cava and prosecco) isn’t for everyone, and for those enjoying a long night of revelry, it’s nice to give these typically dry wines a little elevation. That’s where champagne cocktails come in.
The original Classic Champagne Cocktail has its origins in the sexiest Parisian bars of the mid-1800s, a time when bitters and sugar helped balance the most basic mixology. Chilled bubbles poured over a sugar cube laced with Angostura bitters and topped with a dash of Cognac and a twist of citrus, this staple gave birth to myriad variations. Here are some of our favourites.
Classic Champagne Cocktail
It’s fairly important to use decent champagne for this one – we’re not talking vintage Dom but you might want to reach a little higher on the shelves when you’re doing your pre-party shop. Good brandy will also ensure this drink stays classy, although its old school flavour profile isn’t for everyone so perhaps add this to your tool belt rather than relying on the classic concoction throughout the night. Simply build from the base up – you can prepare the sugar cubes and bitters in advance and top up with 20 ml of Cognac and 90ml of champagne as guests arrive, making this a brilliant initial tongue loosener.
This drink, which has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts over the past few years, is a little more involved but also a lot more rewarding and will elevate your little soiree to no end. The drink became popular in the earth 20th century at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, a cocktail divan with more than its fair share of classic creations to its name. While there’s also a popular version made with gin, this classic will allow your guests to pace themselves a little better. It’s also a great one for pre-prep.
Simply make up a sugar syrup by boiling 1 cup of water to 1 cup of fine white sugar and then letting it cool. Juice 6 lemons and be sure to strain so no pips sneak through. When the time comes to serve, combine 30ml of Cognac with 15ml of lemon juice and 15mls of simple syrup (and yes, you can do this in batches) into a cocktail shaker. Add ice, shake and strain into champagne glasses or, if you’re somewhere warm at New Years, into wine glasses filled with cracked ice. Top with 90ml of champagne and, to add a flourish, add a lemon peel twist at the top, making sure to squeeze said twist between your fingertips to seduce out those essential oils first.
For something a little headier and more tropical, Air Mail is a calypso-inducing take on the champagne cocktail. For this summertime favourite, combine 60ml of good quality golden rum with 15ml of lime juice and a tablespoon of honey (you might want to heat the honey up so it mixes better) and combine with dry ice cubes in a shaker. Once you’ve Tom Cruised the hell out of it, strain and pour into a Collins or highball glass filled with ice, top with champagne, and garnish with a sprig of mint and a lime wedge.
Death in the Afternoon
Created by Earnest Hemmingway and named for one of his most famous tomes, this is a champagne cocktail that packs a punch (although that also depends on which Absinthe you reach for). The herbal, bitter notes of the Absinthe (which will turn the drink milky when champagne is added in what’s known as the louche effect) will cut through the more floral complexity of the wine, ensuring a clean, fresh and balanced drink. It’s more an ad hoc creation than a batch drink, so bear that in mind before you pour a whole bottle of Absinthe into a jug. For preparation, the great writer had these words to say: “Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.”
Probably the most famous champagne cocktail today, the Bellini was created at Harry’s Bar in Venice by bar founder Giuseppe Cipriani, and the drink remains the bar’s most popular drink today. There are two ways you can go here – the recipe calls for white peach puree and while we suggest you do the old school route and combine reach peaches with prosecco, you could be forgiven for using peach schnapps if you’re planning on dishing out these drinks in bulk. A fun idea is a DIY Bellini counter, where guests can create their own take (when using strawberry puree, the drink becomes a Rossini, and when using pomegranate juice, it becomes a Tintoretto). You can even buy Bellini mix if you’re strapped for time.
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