By the time you read this, New Year’s Eve celebrations will have come and gone. The balloons are sadly deflated, and the remnants of confetti and sequins are still strewn about, smashed into the tile crevasses of bar floors. Ceremonial midnight kisses and whispers of resolutions may be a distant memory at this point (here’s hoping your hangover has passed), but one quintessential New Year’s Eve tradition that I never tire of is the champagne toast. I’m a firm believer in incorporating that effervescent, bubbly delight into dinner parties, brunch, a cheeky Monday afternoon, even… bubbles make ordinary moments feel like a reason to celebrate. In the spirit of the new year, I say let’s keep the party going — here are a few riffs on that regular flute of sparkling wine that you can store in your arsenal for the next time you need a champagne cocktail.
I’ve been on a serious mezcal kick since my trip to Mexico City last month, and rightfully so as I learned so much about the various styles and complexities of one of Mexico’s beloved native spirits. Whip up a bubbly interpretation of a paloma by adding 1 ounce of mezcal (I used some delightful Estancia Raicilla that I brought back from my trip, but you can talk to your local spirits clerk about what’s available here) to a Tajín-rimmed glass, and add equal parts grapefruit and pineapple juice (really just a splash of each) and a squeeze of lime. Fill the remainder of the glass with your favorite champagne or sparkling wine and garnish with a lime for the perfect pairing of a slightly smoky, sweet, citrus-y, fizzy concoction with just a hint of spice from the chile-lime rimmed glass. This is the perfect alternative to margaritas when it’s taco night at home, or simply when you’re trying to get creative. Divine.
When I’m not whipping up boozy elixirs for the masses, among my favorite delights to create are smoothies and smoothie bowls. The options are endless with fruits, vegetables and nut milks for blending, and then I like to get real Instagrammy and make aesthetically-pleasing lines of chia seeds, shredded coconut and berries across the top of my bowls. Dragon fruit is nature’s bright pink candy: It provides a subtle sweetness and vibrant color in smoothies and can be purchased frozen in stores (hit the frozen fruit section, and you’ll find a brand called Pitaya Plus that sells the goodness in little cubes perfect for blending. I’m mildly obsessed). Much to my delight, I stumbled upon this idea whilst perusing social media a few days ago when Pitaya Plus shared its ideas for pink champagne on New Year’s Eve. According to Pitaya, you can drop one of those frozen cubes in a champagne flute, top with bubbles, and the cube will melt into the champagne to create a dazzling bright pink hue of effervescent goodness. Yes, I will.
For Christmas, my partner’s grandparents sent us a huge case of beautiful, Oregon pears. Now, don’t get me wrong — I love me some gorgeous, organic pears, but I’ve been making pear crisps and roasted pears and adding them to PB&J’s round the clock just to make sure we get the most out of this plethora of fruit goodness. Alas, why not stay in the spirit and add them to champagne? Pears marry beautifully with ginger, so take your pears, peel, core and slice them and then roast them on 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Once roasted, add them to a food processor with ginger syrup to taste (for the sake of time, I like to use the brand, Real Cocktail Ingredients, available at most liquor stores) and a squeeze of honey. Pour about an ounce of the puree into the glass of your choice (I like a wider, stemless wine glass for this one), and top with champagne. This delightful libation keeps the holiday spice in your glass year-round.
Yes, we’re two days into 2019, and the celebrations of the year’s end have passed, but that’s no reason we can’t keep popping bottles and enjoying our bubbly well into the changing of seasons. Champagne is as adaptable as the ingredients we choose to accompany the cocktail of toasts, milestones and soirées, so keep experimenting, and it’ll never get old. Cheers!