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.
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
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
3 coffee beans (for good luck)
Light sprinkle on the top of chocolate shavings
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!