Cheers to the New Year

By Chef Judi Gallagher – 

The return of the cocktail party has been partly inspired by the success of  television shows such Mad Men and Pan Am and also by America’s current economic challenge. People are spending less on bar tabs and fine dining and instead they are creating festive community parties at home. Pot Luck parties and a shared-appetizer cocktail parties are hugely popular right now.

The traditional champagne toast is one way to say cheers to the New Year but you may want to save the Cristal for more prosperous days ahead. Instead, try something less expensive but just as festive and delicious. Unless you’re making a drink where the flavor of the Champagne really matters (like the classic Champagne Cocktail), alternatives such as Cava, Sekt, Prosecco or California sparkling wine work just fine. Always pour the mixers in first, then top off with the bubbly to avoid fizzy overflow. Serve your champagne cocktails in a stemmed wine glass instead of flutes for a different look.

This one’s a brunch classic. Intensify the flavor by using a 1:5 ratio of freshly-squeezed orange juice to Champagne. Add a splash of triple sec.

Kir Royale
The fancy cousin to the made-with-white-wine Kir, the Kir Royale consists of a dash of creme de cassis (currant syrup), topped off with Champagne.

Invented at Harry’s Bar in Venice, the Bellini is best when made with ripe peaches. If peaches aren’t in season, try creme de peche (peach syrup). Use a 1:4 ratio of syrup to Prosecco.

Black Velvet
This is an easy and strangely delicious drink with a 4:1 ratio of Champagne to black Irish stout.

Death in the Afternoon
Traditionally made from absinthe, a spirit now illegal in the United States, in a 0.5:5 ratio to Champagne, you can substitute pastis or another anise-flavored liqueur.

For a holiday brunch, make Poinsettias: a 1:4 ratio of triple sec to Champagne, with a splash of cranberry juice added for color.

Nelson’s Blood
Named for the famous British Admiral George Nelson, this recipe calls for a 5:1 ratio of Champagne to tawny Port. It’s an acquired taste.

Classic Champagne Cocktail
Soak a sugar cube in bitters, drop it into a flute, fill the flute with Champagne and garnish with a twist of lemon. This classic drink dates back to the mid-19th century. Easy and so elegant.

French 75
There are a number of French 75 recipes floating around; the only thing people agree on is that it’s a serious drink with serious ramifications. Here’s the classic: a splash of simple syrup, a bigger splash of lemon juice, an even bigger splash (about an ounce) of gin, topped off with a glassful of Champagne. Gin is apparently making a comeback of sorts.


For a younger more hip martini crowd, try these festive drinks.

Maeve Pasquera- Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

½ ounce Cointreau

1 ½ ounces POM wonderful Pomegranate Juice (chilled)

Top with Chandon Etoile

Lime twist

In a champagne flute, combine the Cointreau and the chilled Pomegranate juice, top with the Chandon Etoile. Add the long curly lime twist as garnish and serve.


Pumpkin Martini

1 ounce spiced rum or pumpkin syrup

2 tablespoons canned pumpkin

¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

2 ounces vanilla vodka

1 ounce Sylk cream liqueur

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Crushed gingersnaps for garnish


Mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Dip the rim of the martini glass in a bit of pumpkin liqueur, then place the glass rim into the cinnamon and sugar mixture  and  crushed gingersnaps until the rim is coated. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the vanilla vodka, cream liqueur, and pumpkin liqueur or syrup. Shake vigorously for 15 to 20 seconds. Strain into the rimmed glass, sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

At any party is always a good idea to serve a pretty non alcoholic cocktail in addition to sparkling water and the usual carbonated soft drinks. My reliable non-alcoholic cocktail is a Pineapple Nojito. Make a simple syrup and chill. Add pineapple juice and pour over crushed ice with mint leaves, a splash of soda water and your Nojito is ready to sip.

Cheers to a wonderful cocktail party at your house or your neighbor’s. Leave the car keys at home and walk.

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