Rita of The Modern Newman of Nobu Bonifacio of V Lounge
Image: Christa wittmier

While Champagne may be the go-to for ringing in the new year at home, prices have some reaching for that 12-pack of Heineken. When I first started working in the beverage industry, I noticed all my co-workers’ drink of choice was Champagne. “Because it’s expensive,” they’d say. As Dom Pérignon once described, it’s like “drinking the stars.”

The good news is, not everything with that much star power has to be so expensive. While the French law forbids calling sparkling wine made outside their Champagne region “Champagne,” it’s been argued that California’s sparkling wines are strong contenders to the French bubbly. More sunlight means richer grapes. Richer grapes mean drier wines, the preferred taste for bubbles.

Whatever region or country your bubbly is coming from, taste is really in the mouth of the beholder. In blind tastings, my own palate can barely decipher between a $75 bottle of Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé and a $10 bottle of Opera Prima Brut. The more expensive the Champagne, the more confused I get.

In one night of being in the right place at the right time, a friend brought out a bottle of Louis Roederer Champagne Cristal, better known as “Cristal.” I couldn’t get past the tartness and reached for some juice to dilute the acidity, braving the supercilious stares from the rest of our party. Sorry, guys. It tasted like a foot to me.

My advice: start with the experts. Visit some of Honolulu’s own local stars–mixology geniuses’ twists on both Champagne and other holiday cocktails you can attempt at home, or order at their bars.

Daniel Lucariello

Star Quality: Double duty, multi-tasking mixology Found at: Tiki’s Grill & Bar and Aulani Resort Drink Name: Ice-Scream for Bubbles


2 dashes Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

2 dashes pineapple juice

2 dashes Royal Combier

2 dashes brandy


1 tablespoon vanilla ice cream

Daniel Bonifacio

Star Quality: Most epic mohawk in the biz Found at: V Lounge Drink Name: Chip Shot


1 and ½ oz of Bailey’s Irish Créme

1 and ½ oz of Tuaca Italian Liqueur

4oz dark roasted coffee

Whipped cream

3 coffee beans (for good luck)

Light sprinkle on the top of chocolate shavings

Christina Maffei

Star Quality: Winning $10,000 for making the “World’s Best Mai Tai” in 2011 Found at: Managing the bar at Waiolu, Trump Waikiki Drink Name: Hawaiian Holiday Hot Buttered Rum


2oz Bacardi Gold

2oz Perfect Purée Caramelized Pineapple

1tbsp butter

hot water

Add rum, purée, and butter to a hot toddy glass and top with hot water. Use a bar spoon to stir and garnish with a pineapple wedge.

Joshua Perez

Star Quality: Vice President of the United States Bartender’s Guild (USBG), Hawaii Chapter Found at: thirtyninehotel and Brasserie Du Vin Drink Name: El Flaco Royale


1oz of 100% Blue Agave silver tequila

½ oz of Rothman Pear liquor

½ oz of fresh pressed lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

pinch of mint

Sparkling white wine

Shake everything but the sparkling wine. Fine strain through a tea strainer into a chilled coupe glass. Top with the sparkling white wine and garnish with a single mint leaf.

Dave Newman

Star Quality: Winning the Corzo Iron Bartender Throwdown, recently becoming President of the USBG Hawaii Chapter Found at: Nobu Waikiki Drink Name: Asian 45 (a twist on the French 75)


2oz Bombay Sapphire gin

1oz Taylor’s Velvet Falernum

Dash of Angostura bitters

½ oz of fresh squeezed lemon juice

Shiso leaf for garnish

Fine-strain ingredients over fresh ice. Top with Charles Heidsieck Champagne.

Roxanne Siebert

Star Quality: Those sexy tattoos Found at: The Manifest and The Standard

Drink Name: Holiday Martini Recipe:

2oz Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum

2oz of apple cider

.5oz of honey simple syrup

.25 oz lemon juice

dash of Angostura bitters

dash of cinnamon

lemon peel for garnish

Tim Rita

Star Quality: Longevity and years behind the bar at the infamous Lewers Lounge Found at: The Modern Honolulu Drink: Passion


½ part Corzo tequila

1 part passion fruit syrup

½ part lime juice


Shake tequila, passion fruit syrup, and lime juice and top with Champagne in a Champagne flute.

Kyle Reutner

Star Quality: Cocktail catering Found at: town restaurant, or various events with his bar catering company Imbibe Drink Name: The Champagne Cocktail


add a spoonful of sugar to a glass

add an equal part of water and stir to dissolve the sugar

add 3 dashes of bitters

fill with ice

add a goodly portion of Champagne (fill your glass, you deserve it)

stir to incorporate ingredients

top with strawberries and a lemon twist

So cheers to another year–We hope these drinks are inspiring!

Christa Wittmier works as the Sr. Director of Marketing & Events for Young’s Market Company of Hawaii, a distributor of fine wine and spirits and is a member of the United States Bartender’s Guild in the capacity of a “Cocktail Enthusiast.”