In last week's Drink column, I suggested a number of affordable bottles to help make your New Year's Eve toasts sparkle. But not everyone loves Champagne straight. Many—like Mimosa lovers—prefer to enjoy their bubbles blended: with fruit juice, with liquor or both. So, with New Year's Eve 2016 in mind, here are some tantalizing twists on the standard midnight toast.
The simplest of all Champagne cocktails is one that actress Ali Larter likes to serve: a Lemon Twist. And, when I say "simple," I mean this one is simple. For eight servings, divide one 750-milliliter bottle of Champagne or other quality sparkling wine among eight glasses. Drop a lemon zest strip into each glass, et voilá! You've created a slightly bitter, delicious Champagne cocktail that even the klutziest mixologist can concoct.
A smooch is a New Year's Eve stroke-of-midnight tradition, so why not pair it with a Cali Kiss cocktail? Here's the recipe for one: Cut a half lemon into quarters and muddle the lemon pieces in a mixing glass with one and one-half ounces Caliche Rum and three-fourths ounces St. Germain French elderflower liqueur. Fill the glass with ice and shake until chilled. Strain the mixture into an ice-filled Champagne flute; top with one ounce chilled prosecco or other sparkling wine.
The kid in all of us enjoys the idea of an old-fashioned soda fountain float. Well, here's one that's not so old-fashioned, nor as calorie laden as those of our childhood. It comes from the famed Bemelmans Bar at New York's Carlyle Hotel. To make this Low-Cal Float, use a melon baller to add a scoop of lemon or raspberry sorbet to a chilled flute. Fill the glass with five ounces Martini & Rossi prosecco (or your favorite brand) and garnish with one raspberry or a twist of lemon. It's a terrific aperitif for your New Year's Eve guests.
Speaking of The Carlyle, here is the recipe for their popular Carlyle Punch. In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine one ounce Southern Comfort, one and one-half ounce Stolichnaya Raspberry Vodka, one and one-half ounces cranberry juice, one ounce orange juice, one ounce St. Germain, one ounce simple syrup and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Shake well and pour into a Cognac glass over ice. Finish with three dashes Angostura bitters and a splash of Champagne or other sparkling wine. Garnish with fresh blueberries and raspberries.
Most often, the classic French 75 cocktail (named such because the effect was said to have the kick of a French 75mm field gun), created in 1915 in Paris, is usually made with gin. However, I prefer the version made popular by New Orleans bartenders, which uses Cognac in place of gin. To make it, fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add one and one-half ounces VSOP Cognac, one-half ounce simple syrup, one and one-half ounces fresh lemon juice and shake well. Strain the Cognac mixture into a martini glass and top with an ounce or so of sparkling wine, garnished with a lemon twist.
Here is another ridiculously simple, but elegant cocktail for your New Year's Eve celebration, or any other time you'd like a refreshing rosé drink. I'm especially fond of the Rosé Champagne Cocktail because I adore rosé. This recipe makes two. Slice one sugar cube in half with a serrated or sharp, thin knife. Place half a sugar cube into the bottom of each of two Champagne flutes (I like to use old-fashioned Champagne coupes). Add four dashes of aromatic bitters (such as Angostura) to each glass. Then top the glasses with Rosé Champagne. Add a lemon twist garnish if you're so inclined.