Popping bottles on New Year’s Eve? Glasses of Champagne at midnight can be so, well, one-dimensional. Instead, we suggest putting your bubbly in a cocktail this year. Sparkling wine doesn’t need complex, multi-ingredient mixological flights of fancy to create tasty concoctions, but there are some easy ways to use it to make your transition into 2015 a memorable one. Here are a few pieces of advice for New Year’s party success.
Not all bubbly is Champagne
True Champagne must be made from specific types of grapes, grown in a specific part of France, using specific fermentation methods. But it’s merely one part of a wide world of sparkling wines. As a general rule, if you like the still wines from a region or country, you’ll also like its bubbly. So if you’re a Burgundy or Loire Valley fan, go for Champagne; if you like whites from nothern Italy, buy prosecco; if you enjoy Spanish vino, try cava; and if you drink American wines, there are quite a few great domestic bubblies (one notable brand, Gruet, comes from New Mexico of all places). Heck, there are even some sparkling red wines—lambruscos, which also come from Italy.
For mixing, take the middle road
If you’d refuse to drink it straight, you shouldn’t mix it in a cocktail either, so steer clear of the absolute bottom shelf. But on the other hand, you should save pricey vintage bottles for solo sipping. $20 to $50 per bottle is the ideal price range for a cocktail bubbly, which thankfully accounts for an enormous selection. (This’ll also let you buy enough to keep your guests happy: A good rule of thumb is one bottle for every three to four people.)
Liqueur + bubbly = instant cocktail
Take a lesson from the Kir Royale, a classic French concoction that combines Champagne and the blackcurrant liqueur creme de cassis. Any fruity or floral liqueur mixed with sparkling wine creates a delicious and incredibly easy drink. Try one of the very tasty liqueurs from Giffard, which offers flavors ranging from peach and grapefruit to ginger and even banana. Use a light hand, though: All you need is a quarter-ounce, or even less. Add the liqueur to a flute before you pour in the bubbly, and you don’t even need to mix—the bubbles do it for you!
Embrace the Royale
With apologies to French McDonald’s locations, a Royale is merely a cocktail topped with bubbly. Pretty much any drink recipe will work, which means you can Royale-ify everybody’s favorite tipple and make the party feel all the more fancy. Seriously: Try a Manhattan Royale, a Negroni Royale, even a Martini Royale—they’re all delicious. There’s only one rule: Add the bubbly at the very end; if you stir or shake sparkling wine, it’ll go flat.
Save some for the morning after
The best way to beat a wicked Champagne hangover? A Champagne drink for breakfast. Buy an extra bottle or two and tuck them away in the fridge so you can enjoy a Mimosa (Champagne + orange juice) or Bellini (prosecco + peach puree) the morning after. Just as with liqueurs, sparkling wine and any kind of tart fruit or fruit juice makes a delicious (and brunch-friendly) cocktail. Grapefruit juice, pineapple juice, muddled berries—all work well. Go with a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio of juice to bubbly.
Learn a little more about Champagne the region
The only way to open a bottle of bubbly