Drink & Dine: Sparkling Fresh Ideas for Toasting the New Year
From sparkling wines to champagne cocktails, these festive drink ideas will bring some sparkle and shine to your New Year's Eve. Photo: CSA Images/Getty Images
Fêting the arrival of New Year’s Eve with champagne or sparkling wine is a tradition worth preserving for all sorts of reasons, not least that bubbles are reliably festive and pair well with a wide range of different foods. But there is still plenty of room for experimentation within this cherished milieu.
Most simply, hosts can offer an assortment of wines to compare, from French champagne and Crémant to Spanish Cava, Italian Prosecco or even locally produced sparkling wine. More adventurous drinkers could seek rarer but highly satisfying sparkling variations, such as Blanc de Blancs or sparkling wine spiked with Icewine or by whipping up a snazzy champagne-based cocktail.
Blanc de Blancs
Champagne and sparkling wine is typically a combination of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, sometimes abetted by Pinot Meunier or Gamay Noir. Blanc de Blancs is sparkling wine made with white grapes only, usually Chardonnay, a process that results in wine that tastes brighter, lemony, and slightly creamier than traditional sparkling, which conjures more sublime toasty notes.
France’s Taittinger and Mumm both produce exquisite Blanc de Blancs, to name two, and so too do Ontario wineries such as Cave Spring and Trius which are inarguably less exquisite but cheaper. The latter has recently released a Blanc de Blancs under its premium Showcase label. Cave Spring, meanwhile, was awarded a Lieutenant Governor’s Award for their Blanc de Blancs Brut Sparkling in 2012, according to a listing on the LCBO site. It’s described as “perfect for lobster, grilled seafood or sushi,” all solid choices for a decadent New Year’s Eve menu.
Sparkling Wine with Icewine
Canada produces the best Icewine on the planet, and our sparkling wines are swell, too. So, why wouldn’t we infuse one with the other for an incomparably fruity, sweet concoction? Several Ontario wineries produce excellent sparklers already spiked with Icewine — Inniskillin and Peller Estates are both notable — but it’s easy enough to make your own.
Grab any bottle of Ontario sparkling wine (by rights, it should be Ontario if it’s being spiked with locally grown Icewine, but we won’t tell if you prefer to look outside the province’s borders), and experiment with a splash of juicy, jammy Cabernet Franc Icewine, honeyed Vidal Icewine or Riesling Icewine with its glorious notes of tropical fruit.
As an aside, vodka martinis are also beautifully elevated by Cabernet Franc Icewine. Swish some in the glass instead of Vermouth, add vodka and garnish with a cranberry for a festive tipple. Gin martini drinkers will have more success using Riesling Icewine and garnishing with lemon or a slice of mango or pineapple. Yup, the “homework” on this job is awesome.
Say the words “champagne cocktail” and most people reflexively think of Mimosas or Aperol Spritzes, both unbeatable monuments to bubbles and the refreshing taste of orange. But there are endless combinations of delicious, eye-catching cocktails built on a sparkling wine foundation.
Just in time for Dec. 31, Delish.com has published a list of 40 Champagne Cocktails To Sip All Year Long (And Not Just At Brunch) chock full of amazing ideas. From its Prosecco Mint Julep with hints of bourbon and mint to its Cranberry Mimosas, a tangy variation of the classic Mimosa with fresh cranberries, cranberry juice, rosemary, and lime to the mouth-watering Creamsicle Punch, amped up with vanilla ice cream, there is no excuse for boredom at the bar.
There is also no reason to spend huge amounts for the most expensive sparkling wine, either, since all these recipes dilute the wine with other liquids and, in some cases, nibbles. Cheap and cheerful, though not too sweet, are your buzzwords. Here’s to 2023.