By Patti Woods
It's just not New Year's Eve without the familiar pop of the champagne cork as it's propelled from the bottle. The problem is, most people aren't bubbly drinkers. Sure, they'll have a glass at midnight, but what about the rest of the evening?
The holiday calls for something celebratory.
Beer is too mundane and wine just seems too stodgy for such a festive night. So what can you mix up to get your guests in the mood for 2013? How about something from the early 20th century?
"There's a drink I hadn't had in a million years that makes for a really good holiday drink," said Robert Reilly, owner of Luxe Modern Wine and Cocktails on Main Street in Westport. "That's a Brandy Alexander."
Yes, that's right. The Brandy Alexander, believed to have been created in the 1920s, is back in vogue. "We had all forsaken it," said Reilly, "mostly because they were made with cheap crème de cacao."
For his version, Reilly mixes two ounces of cognac with one ounce of Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao. (He notes it has to be crème de cacao and not any other type of chocolate liqueur.) To that he adds one ounce of whole milk rather than the typical heavy cream. He gives it a good shake, double-strains it into a retro cocktail glass and tops it with fresh-grated nutmeg. The result is a warming, wintery drink that feels sophisticated.
While the Brandy Alexander may be a blast from the past, Reilly invented a new drink with a moniker ripped from current-day headlines. Named the "Fiscal Cliff," this drink gets body with the addition of egg whites. "It's a great winter drink," he said.
He starts with the white of one organic egg, then adds rye, fresh-squeezed lemon juice and -- the secret ingredient -- a half-ounce of grade-A maple syrup. The mixture is first dry shaken (that is, without the ice) to allow it to get frothy, then shaken again with ice, double strained and then poured into a glass.
For the optimistic crowd out there, the Billionaire is the perfect drink to ring in the new year. The combination of bourbon, lemon juice, grenadine and absinthe makes for a unique drink. "It's citrusy," said Reilly, "but the pomegranate in the grenadine brings it back to being wintry."
Of course, this is not to say that there aren't champagne-lovers out there. Whether it's the real stuff (that would be Champagne with a capital "C"), or an Italian Prosecco or Spanish cava, bubbly wines seem to bring sparkle to any occasion. "I love the Champagnes with that really doughy and yeasty taste," said Reilly, "but a lot of people don't." For them, he suggests a simple Champagne cocktail: take a sugar cube, soak it in bitters and drop it into the bottom of a Champagne glass. The result is a tall bubbly drink that doesn't taste yeasty at all. Or, there are other options, such as a Bellini (sparkling wine mixed with peach puree) or a Champagne punch.
Whether you choose a glass of golden Champagne or a potent, but sweet Brandy Alexander, the right cocktail can bring a good dose of cheer to any party. Here's hoping that 2013 brings happiness, health and good taste to us all.
- Brandy Alexander
2 ounces cognac
1 ounce crème de cacao
1 ounce whole milk
Add ice, shake, strain and serve with fresh-grated nutmeg.
- The Fiscal Cliff
1 1/2 ounces Willett Rye
3/4 ounces fresh lemon juice
½-ounce maple syrup
white of one egg
Combine all ingredients. Dry shake for 30 seconds. Add ice, shake for 20 seconds. Serve up in cocktail coupe garnished with Angostura Bitters.
- The Billionaire
2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
½-ounce simple syrup
Combine all ingredients. Shake with ice, garnish with lemon slice.