Champagne Wishes and Holiday Dreams
The holidays have now washed over us and that can only mean one thing: the champagne flowed. Whether we toasted with family, rang in the New Year with friends, or stole away for an intimate party for two, good bubbly always brings a unique touch of class and sexy fun to any gathering.
I first fell under champagne’s spell before I was old enough to drink it. Every year, my parents would throw a New Years party and as a kid, I would help bring out the delicate flutes and fancy bottles. As midnight approached, I would wait for that first bottle to be opened. Then, bracing myself with the kind of excited dread usually reserved for roller coasters and just-lit firecrackers, I’d wait for that distinctive, loud “POP!” of the cork, which would then go zooming across the room or hit the ceiling.
My dad, the consummate showman, liked to open the champagne the way they do in the movies: Two thumbs on the cork, pushing outward until the cork became a lethal projectile. Don’t try that at home, kids. To open a bottle of champagne safely, cover the cork with a towel and gently twist the bottle, not the cork. “It isn’t a party until someone loses an eye,” is no way to ring in the New Year.
Here in Los Angeles, where you can’t swing a cat without hitting a red carpet event, I’m not alone ordering champagne or a champagne cocktail on any given Wednesday. If you happen to live where beer is king, don’t let that stop you from indulging your inner fabulousness. Champagne and a game of darts go better together than you might think.
Only feeling half-fabulous? Try a Black Velvet: A flute filled halfway with Guinness, gently topped off with champagne. The more buoyant champagne will float delightfully on the denser stout beneath. Try pouring the champagne slowly over the back of a spoon to insure maximum effect.
For something more complex, try Lu’s Champagne Cocktail, a sophisticated drink consisting of champagne, Angostura bitters and a sugar cube that’s ridiculously easy to make using a shallow, wide-mouth glass instead of a flute. And who doesn’t love anything involving a sugar cube?
If you’re throwing a holiday bash, there are several excellent, yet inexpensive sparkling wines – “Champagne” officially refers to bottles exclusively from the Champagne region of France, although most people use the term loosely – that won’t force you to choose between a proper celebration and a car payment.
Domaine Carneros Bruts by Taittinger are not only crisp, dry and certified organic, 2003, 2004 and 2005 are all under $20. Piper Sonoma Select Cuvee Brut is a steal at around $15, especially compared to its older French relatives, Piper Heidsiech and Charles Heidsiech.
Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, Chandon Blanc de Noir (Napa) and Gloria Ferrer Brut (Sonoma) are also highly respected and delicious selections for around $18.
At those prices, you can afford to create a fantastic punch. Don’t forget to set aside a few bottles for midnight.
2 Bottles Champagne
2 Cans cranberry juice concentrate, thawed
2 Lemons, sliced
2 Litres 7-Up
26 oz. Gin
1 can/jar Maraschino Cherries
13 oz. Strawberry Schnapps
Mix the liquors in a large punch bowl. Stir in the 7-Up and cranberry juice concentrate. Float the cherries and lemon slices on top. Serve in punch cups.
Dara Nai is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.