IMBIBE: Festive Sips

By on December 22, 2015

Add sparkle to the holidays with bubblicious cocktails.

151223Imbibe_origIn last week’s Drink column, I suggested a number of affordable bubbly bottles to help make your New Year’s Eve toasts sparkle. However, not everyone loves Champagne or sparkling wine straight. Many—like Mimosa lovers—prefer to enjoy their bubbles blended: with fruit juice, with liquor or even with both. So, with New Year’s Eve 2016 in mind, here are some tantalizing twists on the standard New Year’s 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, and 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 Cali Kiss: Cut half a lemon into quarters and muddle the lemon pieces in a mixing glass with 1-1/2 ounces Caliche Rum and 3/4 ounce 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 1-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 Champagne flute. Fill the glass with 5 ounces of 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 1 ounce Southern Comfort, 1-1/2 ounces Stolichnaya Raspberry Vodka, 1-1/2 ounces cranberry juice, 1 ounce orange juice, 1 ounce St-Germain French Elderflower Liqueur, 1 ounce simple syrup and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Shake well and pour into a Cognac glass over ice. Finish with 3 dashes of 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 75 millimeter field gun), created in 1915 in Paris, is usually made using 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 1-1/2 ounces VSOP Cognac, 1/2 ounce simple syrup, 1/2 ounce 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, for St. Valentine’s Day, or any other time you’d like a refreshing Rosé drink. I’m especially fond of the Rosé Champagne Cocktail because I adore Rosé Champagne in almost any form. This recipe makes two Rosé Champagne Cocktails. 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 4 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. PJH

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