This is an updated version of the column I wrote last year for New Year’s Eve. Happy New Year, Gentle Readers!
This New Year’s Eve I will be sitting companionably on the sofa with Mr. Sanders. We entertained young folks over Christmas, and all the holiday cooking and merriment has exhausted us. We were very, very merry. That said, we haven’t stayed awake until midnight on New Year’s Eve in years, let alone gone to a party that involved conversation, panty hose or staying up late. Usually, and in the COVID times, we two have an intimate supper of simple nibbles with candlelight, and a glass or two of fizz before we collapse on that sofa and find a movie we can both enjoy, before one of us falls asleep.
Prosecco or Champagne? It’s a personal choice. I prefer the economy of Prosecco, because the quality of the pricey, tinier, French bubbles in Champagne no longer strikes me as crucial. I’ll be asleep before 10, with either French or domestic wine. Which kind of cool, sparkling wine we guzzle while toasting a festive New Year’s Eve is not important.
2023 was been a year full of dark clouds. Let’s move briskly on to 2024: perfect in every way, as we project our hopes and expectations on it – brand new, fresh, crisp, and as yet, unmarred.
This year we will ring in the new year with the best of intentions: to be economical, resourceful, and clever with our use of leftovers. We will promise to compost and recycle more, waste less food; eat more plants, and less red meat. We pledge to grow something more nutritious than one crop of costly tomatoes, and we will patronize the farmers’ markets. We will walk more, and will be good volunteers. We will resolve to read more books and spend less time on our screens. We will try to be kind.
In the meantime, it is Friday night, and it has been a long week. It’s the last time to indulge in 2023. Instead pouring a glass of my usual cheap winter Malbec, I thought I should test some seasonal, perhaps New Year’s Eve-ish cocktail recipes, to get back into the holiday spirit. These are crowd pleasers, but they require a little planning.
“The feeling of friendship is like that of being comfortably filled with roast beef; love is like being enlivened with Champagne.”
– Samuel Johnson
My Favorite French 75s
“Hits with remarkable precision.”
-Harry Craddock, “The Savoy Cocktail Book”
2 ounces gin
1 ounce lemon juice
1 spoonful extra fine sugar
Shake the gin, lemon juice and sugar in a cocktail shaker filled with cracked ice until chilled and well-mixed and then pour into tall glass containing cracked ice and fill up the glass with Champagne. This clever cocktail was said to have been devised during WWI, the kick from the alcohol combo being described as powerful as the French 75mm howitzer gun.
“Meeting Franklin Roosevelt was like opening your first bottle of Champagne; knowing him was like drinking it.”
In a Champagne glass add a teaspoon of sugar and enough Angostura bitters to melt the sugar.
Add a tablespoon of Grand Marnier or cognac and mix in with the sugar, bitters mix.
Add a “fine” quality Champagne and stir.
Float a slice of thin orange on top.
This is what Ilsa and Victor Laszlo sipped in Casablanca.
“Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”
As always, our party hearty friends at Food52 have some delightful ideas for nibbles to help soak up some of the bubbly we are sure to be drinking on New Year’s Eve.
9 Bites to Go with Your Bubbly
This is very pretty, and so seasonal:
Pomegranate Mimosas. Yumsters.
“My only regret in life is that I didn’t drink enough Champagne”
-John Maynard Keynes
And the best of both worlds: a Black Velvet!
Champagne and Guinness. This drink is simply equal parts stout and sparkling wine, and to be honest, there are some who will never understand its appeal. But to fans, this is a perfect special-occasion drink, particularly suited to mornings and late afternoons.
4 ounces (1/2 cup) chilled Champagne or Prosecco
4 ounces (1/2 cup) chilled Guinness Extra Stout
Pour the Champagne into a tall glass. This is not an effete drink. It is robust, and fills your hand with determination. Be sure to pour the Guinness on top. (This is important: Guinness is heavier. If you pour the sparkling wine second, it won’t combine evenly, and will need to be stirred. I shudder at the thought!)
Enjoy yourself this weekend. Happy New Year! Find a good movie. Let the games begin, again, on Tuesday.
“Isn’t it amazing… how a full bottle of wine isn’t enough for two people any more?”