No matter what stage of life you find yourself, there is one liquid truth: Champagne is, in and of itself, a celebration.
The sight of a Champagne bottle is enough to prompt a “What’s the occasion?” and the sound of a cork popping out causes grown adults to squeal with glee, like children at a magic show. You could be in your early ‘20s, peeling yourself out of bed on a Saturday for Mimosas to commemorate the end of the semester, or you could be a titan of industry, proposing toasts for record quarterly profits, but in any case, it’s Champagne that animates the spirit.
So what else could we drink for New Year’s Eve? Sparkling wine is the only appropriate choice. Fortunately for us, it folds into cocktails like a dream, appending the deliciousness and novelty of cocktails with the wine’s celebratory effervescence. Whether it’s a light touch like the Champagne Cocktail or an experience transformed like the Old Cuban, here are seven sparkling wine cocktails to ring in the new year.
Death in the Afternoon
This cocktail is an Ernest Hemingway original, and to this point we humbly offer some advice: Never follow the author’s cocktail recipes to the letter. His version is a stunning double-shot of absinthe to which is added almost a full glass of Champagne, a nearly undrinkable concoction with enough alcohol to tranquilize a bull. Far better, we write, is to “flip those ratios,” making a sparkling wine drink with just a little absinthe and a perfect pre-dinner aperitif. Investigate whether the whole thing started as a joke here, or first make it for yourself with the recipe below:
- 5.5 oz. Prosecco, chilled
- 0.25 oz. absinthe
Combine ingredients in a coupe or Champagne glass. Garnish with a lemon peel or nothing at all.
The Airmail feels modern, but it’s almost as old as airmail itself—airmail (the postal service) made such a splash in the culture, it was only a matter of time before they named a drink after it. This is a riff on the classic French 75, with three changes: Rum instead of gin, lime instead of lemon and honey instead of sugar. This makes a cocktail familiar but distinct, refreshing but deep, “one of those drinks,” we write, “that is interesting enough to keep your attention, but not so loud as to demand it.” Make one for yourself to pair with dinner using the recipe below, or find out the best rum to use here.
- 1 oz. rum
- 0.5 oz. lime juice
- 0.5 oz. honey syrup (2:1)
- 2 to 3 oz. sparkling wine
Shake rum, lime and honey syrup together hard on ice for six to 10 seconds. Add sparkling wine, then strain into a tall glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a lime wheel or honestly nothing at all.
The French 75 is about as simple as it gets—gin, lemon, sugar and Champagne—but it would be more accurate to call it foundational. It is, we write, “a bright and charming drink, a crowd pleaser of the highest order, with the kind of protean simplicity that both encourages and rewards experimentation.” And while some of its children are good enough to make it into this very article, French 75 has reigned for almost 100 years as the king of the sparkling wine cocktails. Find out the three best versions here, or just make our very favorite with which to finish dinner, below.
- 1 oz. London Dry Gin (I use Beefeater)
- 0.5 oz. lemon juice
- 0.5 oz. simple syrup (1:1)
- 3 oz. Champagne
Shake first three ingredients over ice. Strain into a chilled flute and top with about 3 oz. of chilled Champagne.
Among Champagne cocktails, the Old Cuban is in a class all its own. Most cocktails that incorporate bubbles lean into the bright electricity of the sparkling wine, while the Old Cuban—a bunch of aged rum, some lime and mint, sugar and bitters—is a deeper and more seductive affair, we write, “round and redolent with vanilla and oak that moves it from poolside to inside, as if under a slowly twisting ceiling fan in a smoky room.” It feels, we acknowledge, both old and Cuban. Find out why it’s actually neither of those things here, or just make a few after dinner according to the recipe below.
- 1.5 oz. aged rum
- 0.75 oz. lime juice
- 0.75 oz. simple syrup
- 6-8 mint leaves
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 2 oz. sparkling wine
Add all ingredients except wine to a cocktail shaker with ice, shake well for 10 to 12 seconds and strain into a flute or stemmed cocktail glass. Top with wine and garnish with a mint leaf or sprig.
Bellini’s are perfect for late afternoon on New Year’s Eve, as a first drink to get into the evening. It’s been a staple of the Italian cocktail scene since it was invented in Venice in the 1940s and is as simple as a Mimosa—just three parts wine to one part peach purée—proving, we write, that “a bright, light, slightly sweet sparkling wine cocktail is ever just a couple pours away.” Find out here how much of your savings you’d have to deplete to drink them at Harry’s Bar in Venice, or just make one yourself according to the recipe below.
- 1.5 oz. white peach puree
- 4.5 oz. Prosecco
To start, make sure your peach puree and Prosecco are fridge-cold and your glasses frozen, if possible. For easiest results, mix ingredients together in a separate shaker or container and stir to integrate. Once foaming subsides, gently pour into cold juice glasses or flutes and enjoy.
Who could say no? The Champagne Cocktail is the father of them all, immortalized in the first ever cocktail book in 1862, but modern palates might find it a little puzzling. It is composed of Champagne with a dash or two of the spice-heavy Angostura Bitters and a sugar cube—essentially an Old Fashioned, with sparkling wine instead of whiskey. And while we may prefer some of the other drinks on this list, none of them say New Year’s Eve quite so robustly as this. Have one at the stroke of midnight with the recipe below, or click here to find out why Prosecco actually works better here than Champagne.
- 1 sugar cube
- 1-2 dashes of bitters
- 5-6oz Prosecco, or other sparkling wine
Saturate the sugar cube with bitters, about one or two dashes. Place bitters-soaked sugar cube in a coupe, fill with sparkling wine and garnish with a lemon peel.
The Mimosa may not win the Oscar for best brunch drink, but it wins the People’s Choice Award year after year. As the simplest sparkling wine cocktail ever made, Mimosas out-compete the others, but this ease and ubiquity can sometimes breed contempt (i.e., If you’ve ever had a Mimosa, you’ve likely had a bad one). That being said, a well-made Mimosa is a lovely and almost salutary drink, giving you a kiss of juicy sweetness alongside just enough of the “hair of the dog that bit you” to make that bite stop hurting. For a while, at least. Find out what kind of bubbles make the best one here, or if you’re just rolling out of bed, toss it together with this recipe below:
- 2 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
- 4 oz. Champagne, Crémant or Cava
Pour wine into a champagne flute. Add juice, slowly and enjoy, for you have conquered this day and it’s not even noon.