Picture a storybook New Year's Eve celebration: twinkling moonlight with splendidly dressed guests, each holding a glass to raise at midnight. A scene that magical calls for stars in those glasses -- and by chance, that's precisely how Dom Perignon described his first taste of Champagne. "To me, a sparkling drink is a New Year's necessity," said Pam Bushling, mixologist at Madrona Manor in Healdsburg, California. Find your inspiration among the effervescent libations described here and this New Year's Eve, serve cocktails that sparkle as brilliantly as your guests.
"My signature New Year's Eve cocktail is called Champagne Wishes," said Lauren Lathrop Williams, assistant general manager and lead cocktail engineer at San Diego's Jsix Restaurant and Lounge. "The drink is fruity and fun and pairs well with holiday festivities." Williams creates the cocktail using Champagne, grapefruit bitters and Solerno Blood Orange liqueur -- "to give it a rosy hue and a wintery flavor." The amount of each ingredient can be adjusted to taste, Williams said, which allows for a lot of creativity.
"If a gourmet meal is part of your celebration, the Opening Act will effectively prep your taste buds," said Bushling, "plus red is such a festive color." Combine 3/4 ounce Campari, 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice and 1/2 ounce Lillett Blanc over ice to chill, then strain into a flute and fill with Champagne. Top with a shake or two of bitters.
For the Arctic Kiss, you'll need 2 ounces vodka, 3/4 ounce cherry liqueur, 1/2 ounce sparkling wine or Champagne, 3 cherries, 2 strawberries, 3/4 ounce lemon juice, and 1 ounce simple syrup. Muddle the cherries and strawberries; add all remaining ingredients and shake with ice. Double strain into a sugar-rimmed coupe glass and top with sparkling wine float. Garnish with a strawberry.
Arctic Kiss: To Float a Cocktail
For the festive Arctic Kiss, you'll need to know how to float a Champagne cocktail. Nolan Kennedy, head mixologist at Harding's in New York, provided his expert instructions for the process. "Have the spirit cocktail already inside the coupe glass, then put an upside-down spoon into the glass where the spirit ends. Move the spoon up the glass as you pour the Champagne." This, he explained, will result in the separation of the liquids and colors to create the floating technique.
Marcella Anise Smith, general manager and beverage director of New York's Rusty Mackerel, suggested the Airmail and offered advice on choosing a sparkling wine for cocktails. There's no need to head to the expensive, high-end selections, she said. "The nuance and subtle complexity will be lost in the mix. Instead, choose something of quality with structure. Something like a Cremant from France is perfect." Shake 1 1/2 ounces gold rum, 1/2 ounce honey and 1/2 ounce lime juice with ice; strain into flute. Top with 1 ounce of Champagne.
"The French 75 is a classy, understated Champagne cocktail punctuated by a good dose of gin," said Jordan Catapano, Los Angeles-based author of "This Girl Walks Into a Bar: A Women's Guide to Professional Bartending and Home Mixology" and expert mixologist for BevMo! "I like the mild flavor and think it's so well balanced." Pour 1 ounce gin and 1/2 ounce simple syrup into a Champagne flute and mix. Drop the lemon twist into the mixture and slowly add 4 ounces of brut Champagne.
"If you want a sweeter beverage that doesn't pull any punches, the Blueberry Thrill will carry you through midnight," said Bushling. Pour 1 ounce limoncello into a flute. Add brut Champagne until liquid is 2 inches from top. Slowly add 1/2 ounce blueberry puree while gently stirring. For blueberry puree, combine 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen blueberries, 1/3 cup sugar and the juice of 2 lemons in food processor. Process until smooth (about 45 seconds). Strain with a fine mesh strainer. Keeps for three days in refrigerator.
The Whiskey Cider is a festive winter cocktail in both appearance and flavor, said Kyle Davis, mixologist and bar manager at The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, N.C. In shaker, combine 1 1/2 ounces cinnamon whiskey, 1/2 ounce cider, 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice and 1/4 ounce fresh lime juice. Pour one egg white into mixture, add ice; shake vigorously. Strain. Pour over ice in a rocks glass. To garnish, place thin slice of green apple, wrapped around a white chocolate-covered cherry, on spear. Sprinkle with grated cinnamon.
The simple but classic Kir Royal is another New Year's Eve cocktail Catapano recommends. "I truly believe that creme de cassis was made for bubbly," Catapano said. "The slightly tart black current liqueur adds just the right touch of flavor to a glass of prosecco." Pour 4 ounces prosecco into a Champagne flute, then drizzle 3/4 ounce creme de cassis into the glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.
"Introducing a New Year's Eve cocktail for beer drinkers: the Black Velvet," said Davis. This drink was created to mourn the death of Britain's Prince Albert in 1861 -- but don't let its somber beginnings stop you from serving it on New Year's Eve. "In relation to New Year's Eve," Davis said, "your stout (the current year) is washed away by the sparkling bubbles of Champagne (the New Year)." Pour 4 ounces Champagne into glass; carefully pour 4 ounces of chilled stout on top. Sprinkle with raw coconut flakes.
Midnight's melody, "Auld Lang Syne," is about honoring the past, so serve the simple but elegant Emily Post, a cocktail Williams created. She describes it as "a white-gloved glass of nostalgia." For Williams, memories of sitting on her grandmother's porch, doing crossword puzzles and drinking violet water or eating violet candies are among her favorite recollections. "I created the Emily Post in memory of her," she said. Pour 1/4 ounce creme de violette into flute. Fill flute with 5 ounces Champagne or prosecco. Garnish with fresh blackberries; serve immediately.