New Year’s Eve celebrations call for bubbles. And while there’s nothing wrong with pure, unadulterated brut, a little sugar and a dash of bitters goes a long way toward making an easy, low-proof and classic cocktail that’ll last you till the countdown.
The Champagne cocktail in its original form is simply a glass of sparkling wine (the drier the better, known as “brut”), seasoned with a sugar cube that’s been doused in Angostura bitters. The cube slowly disintegrates in the bottom of the glass, sending bittersweet bubbles bounding via the wine’s natural carbonation. It takes moments to assemble, making it the perfect drink to make for a crowd when you’re the one who’s bartending.
Once you have that recipe down, feel free to take some liberties. The Kir Royale is perhaps the most well-known variation. Instead of using a sugar cube, sweeten sparkling wine with crème de cassis, a sweet black currrant liqueur. Pour the liqueur into a chilled Champagne flute first, then add the wine. The bubbles do the job of mixing in the dark purple cordial.
Or, experiment with any liqueur that piques your interest. Minnesota distilleries make a fruit stand’s worth of options.
Tattersall Distilling has a recipe app to help customers scout ideas for each of their brandies, liqueurs and cremas. Their 50th & France cocktail spices up sparkling wine with Pommeau, which is fortified wine made from Minnesota apples. The drink is sweetened with maple syrup.
The Poinsettia combines Tattersall’s cranberry liqueur and orange crema with sparkling wine for a festive flute.
Heirloom Liqueur’s Pineapple Amaro also does the trick. Simply add in a 1 to 5 ratio with sparkling wine.
Sweet liqueurs in sparkling wine need little else, save for a lemon twist or other fruit garnish.
But give dry liqueurs a chance, too. Just be sure to add a sweetening element. Dampfwerk Distillery’s Helgolander is a spicy, herbal liqueur with notes of bitter orange, star anise, cinnamon and cardamom. It pairs well in a Champagne cocktail with a touch of absinthe.
But if you don’t have the green fairy on hand, drop in another bitters-soaked sugar cube to season a half-ounce of the German-style spirit.
All that’s left to do is clink.