It’s a great shame that more people don’t enjoy sparkling wine on a regular basis. Perhaps to blame are the bevvy of terrible NYE parties people go to when they’re younger: a stupid cover charge, too-loud music, and the fact that I, personally, would have been in bars like Coconut Joe’s, or Yucatan’s (Thank you 1990’s Calgary) in my wasted youth. The complimentary “champagne” would inevitably be a to-be-unnamed Spanish Cava in a frosted black bottle--and this is perhaps why so many carry around the baggage of not really liking sparkling wine, or thinking it’s something only to be consumed during the countdown while looking for someone who will let you give them a smooch.
If you already love good sparkling wine (or Champagne) you might not need to dress up your NYE libation, but if you’re a casual tippler or occasional sparkling wine enthusiast, you might enjoy your sparkly bubbles a new way this year.
The Royal(e) treatment
A Kir Royale is one of the easiest ways to add a little charm to even the lousiest sparkling wine--for you know--when you didn’t make it to the liquor store in good time and you have to grab whatever you can. Place about a third of an ounce of crème de cassis in the glass or flute, and fill with sparkling wine. The cassis adds sweetness and fruit and has a beautiful colour. Quick tip: start light with the crème de cassis; you can always add more to taste. A Chambord Royale is a good alternative to the Kir Royale using Chambord. (An added bonus, 50mL bottles of Chambord aren’t that hard to find.) Chambord is a raspberry liqueur, which might be more appealing to some people. Make just like the Kir Royale.
It’s super easy to make, looks super classy, and yes, tastes pretty good too. Place a sugar cube in the bottom of your glass or flute and put in two to three drops of bitters (traditionally Angostura) over the cube. Fill the glass with Champagne (or dry sparkling wine) and you are done. Garnish with a cherry, lemon peel, or anything else really.
If your home mixology skills are well-honed, treat your guests or loved ones to a French 75. Recipes are abound on the internet, but generally, all you need are an ounce and half of cognac, half ounce of simple syrup and lemon juice. Put everything but the sparkling wine in a shaker with ice, shake well and strain into your glass. Top up with sparkling wine and serve.
Have a hankering for good tonic? Porter’s Tonic Hibiscus is another very easy way to glam up your evening: a half ounce of tonic, prosecco (or similar) poured over to taste, garnish and away you go. The tonic is also pretty damn good with gin too. You’ll get about 16 servings from a bottle, though I didn’t say it will last long.
A favourite with my better half, wild hibiscus flowers in syrup appeared on the scene a few years ago. Simply dig out one of the flowers (completely edible) from the bottle and place in the glass, then pour your favourite sparkling wine (cava is a nice one) over. An easy sweetness and fruitiness make for an easy cocktail that looks amazing.
For any sparkling wine purists or Champagne enthusiasts out there who insist that their favourite style of wine needs no accoutrements, you are right, but wine is meant to be enjoyed for all. So, if you are planning on being the perfect host for an upcoming special occasion, you might consider having one or two of the ingredients above on hand.