Tiny bubbles and New Year's Eve go together like Dick Clark and Times Square, Auld Lang Syne and screechy horns, party hats and hangovers. You can't have one without the other. ∫ Revelers have hoisted fizzy Champagne to welcome the new year since the French perfected the art of forcing carbonation into wine. Maybe even before. As cocktails go, there isn't much that's more celebratory than a flute full of bubbly. ∫ You can welcome 2010 with a sparkler straight up, for sure. (Check out our recommendations for every budget on Page 5E.) Or you can use sparkling wine as a basis for a cocktail that's equally festive. Also, you can make your fizzy drink nonalcoholic easily by using carbonated water or club soda. ∫ Champagne cocktails have long been popular in Europe, but are often relegated to brunch accompaniments in the United States. Mimosas (with orange juice) and Bellinis (with peach puree) are standard 11 a.m. Sunday fare paired with eggs Benedict or stuffed French toast. In Europe, sparkling cocktails are served as an aperitif before dinner. They're just as lovely to drink at 11 p.m.
In these recessionary times, sales of high-end Champagne are off a bit so you're likely to find some deals for the really good stuff. The 2002 Cristal, the latest release of the Louis Roederer top cuvee, has dipped below $200 for the first time. Did I just hear you drop your coffee mug? Maybe your wallet isn't as fat as Diddy's, but if it is, there are some bargains out there.
Even if you think you've scored with a $100 bottle of Dom Pérignon, it's a shame to mix fruit juices, sugar syrup, liqueurs or other alcohol with high-quality Champagne, Italian prosecco, Spanish cava or other sparklers. Enjoy them on their own.
For champagne cocktails, buy moderately priced sparkling wine, not the cheapest you can find. Very inexpensive ones can be acidic and harsh; mixers can't mask that.
Sparklers such as Korbel and Freixenet cost about $12, and Gloria Ferrer will run about $15, a reasonable amount for a cocktail base. (You can go even cheaper with André or Cook's and even some European sparklers for less than $8.) Look for "brut" on the label, which means very dry. Extra-dry is sweeter and could make cocktails overly cloying.
Dressing up a sparkler can be as simple as adding a fresh raspberry or two to the glass before you pour, or positioning a curly of citrus peel on the rim of the flute. If you want to dress up bubbly even more, here are some suggestions:
Traditional Bellini: Puree one fresh peach (or use frozen), and put into a tall flute glass. (If you don't have a peach, use 3 shots of peach nectar instead.) Add sparkler to fill. Do not stir or risk destroying the bubbles.
Bombay Bellini: Champagne with a splash of mango nectar.
Mimosa: In a flute, add, in this order, 1/2 ounce triple sec, 1 1/2 ounces orange juice, 3 1/2 ounces chilled sparkler. Garnish with an orange slice.
Champagne cocktail: Drop a sugar cube into a flute and add a dash of bitters. Fill with Champagne for the classic Euro-drink.
Champagne 'rita: Shake 1 ounce tequila, 1 ounce triple sec and 1 ounce limeade with ice. Strain into margarita glass and add bubbly to fill.
Apricot bubbly: Add a shot of apricot brandy to a glass of Champagne.
Kir royale: Put 1/2 shot of creme de cassis into a flute and then pour sparkler over it. Also try it with Chambord and Champagne. Call it a Cham/Cham.
Sunrise Champagne: Put 2 ounces orange juice and 1/2 ounce triple sec into a flute and add bubbly to fill. Garnish with orange slice. You can substitute Cointreau or Grand Marnier for the triple sec.
Orange pom-pom: Pour 1 shot each Grand Marnier and pomegranate juice into a flute. Add sparkler to fill.
Champagne boom-boom: Put 1 shot sweet vermouth, 1 shot dark rum and 1/2 shot orange juice into a flute. Add Champagne to fill. Add mango slice for garnish.
Black velvet: Pour 4 ounces sparkling wine into a beer mug or pint glass. Add 4 ounces of chilled stout.
Janet K. Keeler can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8586.