New Year’s Cocktails — Another Drink of the Week Holiday Special

Last week‘s special selection of Christmas drink suggestions were all united by one special ingredient: fat!

While such yuletide standbys as eggnog and hot buttered rum also make excellent New Year’s party favors, it’s possible you’ve had enough rich food during the last several days for a lifetime. So, let’s focus on drinks that might rough up your liver a little but which will leave you arteries alone. And, for our special star ingredient, I’m thinking that we’ll go with that most festive, bubbliest, and Auld Lang Syny-est of cocktail ingredients: champagne, or it’s more or less identical twin, sparkling white wine.

Though a great many old school and more recent craft concoctions feature bubbly, by far the most popular and venerable champagne infused cocktail is the French 75. Conceived in 1915 at Harry’s Bar and quaffed by many of the Lost Generation writers who might have encountered the original and far more deadly French 75 on the battlefield, this drink is a classic in every sense of the word. It’s classy, fun, and — if you drink them in Hemingway/Fitzgerald proportions — will blow you sweetly to kingdom come.
French 75.

The French 75

1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons superfine sugar or 1/2 ounce simple syrup
Champagne/sparkling white wine
1 lemon twist (garnish)

Combine the gin, juice, and sugar or syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake with vigor and strain into a champagne glass. Top off with roughly 2-3 ounces of the dry sparkling white wine of your choice along with the lemon twist.

This is a really sturdy drink that can take a little punishment. You certainly don’t need to use the finest champagne — a half-way acceptable dry sparkling white wine should do the trick. As for the gin, anything from Tanqueray, Beefeater, Bombay to value-priced Gordon’s should do the trick. Also, some bartenders substitute brandy or cognac, but I still haven’t gotten around to trying that myself.

Another alternative is to go with one of the simplest, yet oddly undersung of champagne cocktails, which is to say, the Champagne Cocktail. If you’ve heard it referred to in movies like “Casablanca,” you might imagine it’s a fancy concoction. In fact, it’s anything but and is actually considered a way to class up some slightly flat bubbly. You can read the orginal post, but making is just a matter of dropping a sugar cube into a champagne flute, whetting it with some Angostura/aromatic bitters, and pouring champagne over it.

On the other hand, let’s say you’re not up for any of the hard stuff, yet maybe you’d like a fizzy white wine cocktail that’s not just fizzy white wine. For that, I give you this alluring liquid lady.

The Italian Mistress.

The Italian Mistress

1/2 ounce Punt e Mes
1/4 ounce simple syrup or 1 teaspoon superfine sugar
3-4 dashes Angostura bitters
Sparkling white wine/champagne
1 orange twist (garnish)

For those of you who may not be up on your fancy fortified wines, Punt e Mes is essentially a sweet vermouth with a stronger bitter edge that’s almost chocolately; I love it dearly.  Start your Italian Mistress by combining the Punt e Mes with the bitters and syrup/sugar in a champagne flute. If you’re using sugar, make sure it’s good and dissolved. Fill the rest of the glass with your sparkling white wine and add the orange twist. If you’re fluteless, a regular champagne glass might do, but be aware that they’re usually smaller so you might want to adjust your proportions.

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Of course, these drinks are only a few ideas out of thousands. One of the beauties of New Year’s Eve is that pretty much any mixed alcoholic beverage is in keeping with the night. It’s a great time to dust off such easy-to-make warhorses as the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Martini, or Margarita. Just make sure you make ‘em the right way — like I tell you to!

  

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Drink of the Week: The French 75

Image ALT text goes here.The French 75 does not refer to the number of pounds Gerard Depardieu could stand to lose. No, it refers to a really  marvelous and relatively simple classic presumably imbibed in massive quantities by Ernest, F. Scott, Pablo, Gertrude and all those other people Woody Allen fantasizes about hanging out with.

The drink itself is named after a rapid firing cannon, the first truly modern piece of field artillery, say the Wikipedians. As for the cocktail, it “hits with remarkable precision” according to The Savoy Cocktail Book. I have to say I agree.

Reportedly created circa 1915 at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris by Harry himself, the French 75 rarely misfires. It’s delicate, friendly, and sophisticated all at the same time. The Lost Generation sure could find their way to a good mixed drink.

The French 75

1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons superfine sugar or 1/2 ounce simple syrup
Champagne/sparkling white wine
1 lemon twist (garnish)

Combine the gin, juice, and sugar or syrup in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a champagne glass. Top off with roughly 2-3 ounces of the dry sparkling white wine of your choice. Add your lemon twist and toast the early/mid 20th century author, poet, or painter of your choice.

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First of all, I should add that this week’s drink represents a return engagement for the Yellow Tail Sparkling White Wine featured in last week’s beverage, the Capone. I am not a wasteful cocktail blogger and, as I still had half a bottle of not precisely champagne left and those little stoppers things actually work okay, I decided to try another sparkling white wine based cocktail. And, while I admit that Australia is a very long way from the Champagne region of France, any brut (dry) white fizzy wine should work okay here. The Yellow Tail worked pretty brilliantly, in fact, and I feel no need to rename this version of the drink after something Australian.

The French 75 is one of those drinks where there is a great deal of variation from recipe to recipe and experimentation is welcome. My favorite version of the drink was the one featured above, but I also enjoyed a couple of variations I tried out. One, maligned somewhat elsewhere, used Cointreau in place of sugar for a somewhat boozier, orangey-er concoction; it wasn’t quite as deliciously delicate as the version above, but was still a very nice drink of its own that many may prefer.  I also experimented with dispensing with the sugar and using sweetened Hayman’s Old Tom Gin in place of my Beefeater. The result was drier but still very, very light and enjoyable.

The trick, for  me, is keeping the lemon juice under control. Some recipes call for as much as a whole ounce of lemon juice and more sugar. To that, mates, I say “non.”

  

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