New Year Bubbles


There’s something very wonderfully decadent about a Champagne-based cocktail. It can be a perfect way to start an evening and, depending what you want in the mix, can take you in all kinds of directions: deeply romantic, sensual or just plain giddy. Whatever your plans for marking the New Year, there's a fizzy drink to help you on your way.

Hélène de Troie
Pour a measure of rose-flavour liqueur into the bottom of a Champagne glass and top up with pink champagne. Garnish with a rose petal.

This has got to be the most romantic cocktail I know. It’s been a favourite of mine since I first tried it in a Greek restaurant in France. (The name means “Helen of Troy.”) It has a deep pink colour and smells of damask roses.  This is the cocktail to serve if you're planning a New Year's Eve a proposal. I make it with French Crème de Rose liqueur (available online or in specialist cocktail shops). It has a deep colour and very strong flavour of roses. Italian rosolio liqueur is paler and more delicate, but I think it gets lost in the Champagne.


Mimosa
Mix an orange liqueur such as Cointreau or Triple Sec with fresh orange juice in a jug. ⅓ fill a champagne flute with this and top up with Champagne.

I mentioned my spiced, festive Mimosa in my last blog. This classic combination is made with Cointreau, but we've also had fun trying it with Grand Marnier (a bit richer) and have made it just as successfully with clementine juice and Mandarine Napoléon. It's the perfect opener to a New Year's Day lunch with friends.



Saint-Esprit
Pour a teaspoon of Grand Marnier and 2 teaspoons of St-Germain elderflower liqueur into each glass and top up with Champagne.

This is one of my own invention. I based it on a suggestion from the back of a Grand Marnier bottle one summer, which had you mixing the orange brandy with soda water and elderflower cordial. I’ve just moved it from the garden party to the dining room. The result is a very sophisticated cocktail that would be ideal for marking an important anniversary or beginning a rather swish dinner party.





Champagne Cocktail
Douse a sugar cube with Angostura Bitters and place it in the bottom of a Champagne glass. Add a shot of good quality Cognac and top up with Champagne. Leave ungarnished or slip a maraschino cherry onto the rim of the glass.

This one’s not for the faint-hearted! It’s not so much a flavoured Champagne as a dilute Cognac. It’s not for the impecunious, either, for obvious reasons. I have tried making it with cheaper brandies but wished I hadn’t. Better to keep it for the kind of special occasion that would warrant mixing Champagne with a fine Cognac.

This is the oldest cocktail in this post. It was first mentioned in a book of 1855, long before the Prohibition-era heyday of cocktails. In that time, it has been denounced by any number of authors and experts on mixology, without diminishing its popularity. The sheer decadence of the cocktail makes it one for celebrations. Perhaps this is the one for bringing the new year in, and sending your guests off into the cold of the night, still warm from all that brandy.

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I think it’s reasonable to question why I’ve concentrated on Champagne, when the UK and other countries produce many fine quality sparkling wines. I love English & Welsh wines, but they are generally produced by small producers, taking great care to produce top-quality wines. If I’m going to pay thirty-odd pound a bottle for locally-produced fizz, I want to taste the wine itself. Indeed, it deserves to be treated with the same respect the growers and winemakers have shown it. If I’m making cocktails, though, I’d rather spend £12 or so at a discount supermarket for a Champagne I wouldn’t feel guilty mixing with liqueurs. You could also use one of the many regional French crémant wines or Cava that you can buy in most supermarkets. Prosecco is lower in acidity than Champagne and has a ‘softer’ fizz to it. It mixes best with fruit juices, rather than liqueurs. You might want to try it in the Mermaid's Kiss I wrote about last time.

This is my last blog post for 2019. Thank you to all my readers and followers for your support. Have a very happy and prosperous 2020.

A version of this post appeared in The Yorkshire Times in February 2019.

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