If the idea of dropping a Benjamin on a couple of nice bottles of Champagne isn't something you're ready to do yet, or if you find yourself with a supply of sparkling wine you don't want to spend the evening drinking, sparkling cocktails have your back.
Armed with a few simple ingredients, you can turn a ho-hum sparkling wine into some tasty cocktails. Be warned, though: Some sparkling wines are simply without redemption. These might be better used as practice for your sabrage skills, or for spraying over each other at midnight.
The two easiest cocktails to make are the kir royale and the classic champagne cocktail. For the kir, take a decent bottle of crème de cassis or your favorite liqueur and float it on a glass of sparkling wine. For the champagne cocktail, drop a sugar cube wetted with a few dashes of angostura bitters into the wine and wait for it to dissolve.
For Negroni fans, the sbagliato ― or "wrong" ― variation starts with the same basic formula (equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth), but it switches out the gin for prosecco, resulting in a light alternative to the classic.
If you feel like getting your mixing tins out, you can never go wrong with a French 75, a cocktail often served at brunch though it goes down easily and elegantly in the evening as well. The basic recipe is an easy two ounces of gin, ¾ ounce lemon juice, and 1 ounce of simple syrup, shaken and strained into a glass topped with sparkling wine. We've been enjoying the new Beefeater Winter Edition gin in this drink. It's a less savory adaptation of the spirit, with additional orange, cinnamon, and nutmeg in the distillation. (At $19/750ml, it's also quite affordable.)
The Old Cuban* is a contemporary classic that takes a Mojito and dresses it up for the party. Rum, lime juice, mint leaves, simple syrup, and angostura bitters are shaken and strained into a glass before being topped off with a fuzzy blanket of bubbles. Rum master Martin Cate suggests the Plantation Barbados 5 Year Old as a tasty and flexible rum at a friendly price ($18/750ml).
Whichever way you decide to toast the New Year, the making-lemons-into-lemonade approach as applied to a bottle of inexpensive sparkling wine may not be a bad way to welcome 2011. Cheers!
3/4 ounce lime juice
1 ounce simple syrup
6 mint leaves
1 1/2 ounces rum
2 dashes angostura bitters
Shake and strain into cocktail glass; top with 4 ounces Champagne and garnish with mint sprig