Raising a glass of something bubbly is a timeless way to end a year.
The act is innately celebratory, hopeful and a little nostalgic, and the bubbles themselves can take many forms: tiny and flashy, racing to the glass’s surface; big and bouncing across the tongue; delicate and softly sparkling. They can come from time-honored pours of Champagne or another sparkling wine, one that is tart with acid, floral and honeyed, or simply flitting along, carrying the idea of sweetness. Or they can be from bubbling cocktails, less in step with strict holiday tradition but no less merrily effervescent.
The fizz is one such cocktail that feels festive and far from the Champagne flute. A 19th-century classic, it has a simple template: citrus, spirit, sweetener and seltzer — with the optional addition of an egg white, which helps trap air and form bubbles when shaken. It’s that egg white that gives the tart, gin-forward Midnight Fizz a spectacularly frothy head; a final splash of soda water makes it even more, well, fizzy.
Beer’s carbonation is another way to fashion a bubbly glass. In the To Wit, unfiltered, spiced witbier adds a sparkling top to an orangey drink fortified with Calvados and amaro.44
But if you’re looking to dress up traditional bubbles, Julia Coney, a Washington, D.C.- and Houston-based wine writer and educator, keeps it simple, adding crème de cassis, grenadine or Lillet Rosé to Champagne for color and subtle flavor. Or you could easily prepare a classic cocktail that pairs Champagne with sugar and bitters. As the bitters-soaked sugar cube slowly and beautifully dissolves at the bottom of the glass, it sends up a steady stream of bubbles and gradually skews the drink sweet-bitter.
When choosing Champagne or any sparkling wine, Coney emphasizes that a bottle should remain the same quality whether you plan to mix or pour it solo. “It all starts with ‘Can you drink it on its own before it’s a cocktail?’” she said. “Putting it in a cocktail isn’t going to make it any better.”
The pop of Champagne, prosecco or other fizzy drinks requires a salty snack. Coney often matches Champagne to a specific style or brand of chips.
“If you have really heavy acid, aggressive bubbles, you need Lay’s,” she said. “For a soft wine, you need Ruffles because they have less salt content.”
Spiced chips, Coney says, team up best with a bottle of demi-sec Champagne; kettle chips with blends; vegetable chips with rosé Champagne.
For a chip-based snack that pairs with any variety of bubbly drink and requires marginally more lift than pouring from bag to bowl, layer your choice of potato chips with cured meat (prosciutto, finocchiona or chorizo), craggy hunks of aged cheese (Parmesan, Gouda or Manchego) and something briny (olives, cornichons or guindilla peppers). Eat between sparkling sips.
And keep going. As Coney notes, you don’t need an occasion to pour some bubbles.
“Bubbles are an everyday drink,” she says.
With that philosophy in mind, raise a glass to toast the year’s end, the start of a new — and all the days that follow.
Recipe: Midnight Fizz
Yield: 1 drink
- 2 ounces dry gin
- 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup
- 1/2 ounce orange liqueur, such as Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao, Cointreau or triple sec
- 1 egg white
- Soda water, chilled
In a shaker, combine the gin, lime juice, simple syrup, orange liqueur and egg white. Cover and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Add ice to the shaker, cover again and shake vigorously until chilled and well frothed, about 10 to 15 seconds more. Double-strain into a small Collins or fizz glass without ice and top with soda water. Serve immediately.
Recipe: To Wit
Yield: 1 drink
- 1 ounce Calvados, cognac or Armagnac
- 1 ounce amaro, such as Amaro Nonino, Montenegro or Averna
- 3/4 ounce fresh orange juice
- 3 ounces Belgian-style witbier, such as Hoegaarden or Allagash White
- 1 orange wheel
In a shaker, combine the Calvados, amaro and orange juice. Add ice, cover and shake until well chilled. Fill a rocks glass with ice. Strain the cocktail into the glass and top with beer. Add the orange wheel and serve.
Recipe: Classic Champagne Cocktail
Yield: 1 drink
- 1 sugar cube (or 1 teaspoon granulated or Demerara sugar)
- 4 to 6 dashes Angostura bitters
- 4 to 5 ounces Champagne or dry sparkling wine
- Long, thin lemon twist
Add the sugar cube to a chilled champagne glass. Douse with bitters, then top slowly with Champagne. Garnish with the lemon twist.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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