Perfect New Year’s Eve Cocktails: From Champagne and Fireworks to Netflix and Chill.
Ah New Year’s Eve. Sometimes it’s exactly what we all expect it to be – champagne, great friends, tons of laughs, culminating in fireworks and a kiss at midnight. But other times it’s just not. It’s a lot of pressure for one little night. And what about those times when you don’t feel like partying? Some years my husband and I are in bed well before midnight with our huge German Shepherd wedged between us, shivering, because – fireworks.
No matter what your plans are this year, here are three New Year’s eve cocktails to suit any occasion. So, mix, sip, and toast the new year!
The Plan: Sequins, Disco Balls, and Your Best Buds
The Drink: Sparkling Bee’s Knees
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t secretly want all of my New Year’s Eves to look like a party at Jay Gatsby’s house. I want to be wearing a pretty dress, drinking champagne out of a coupe while listening to a big jazz band and watching beautiful people do the Charleston. What’s nearly as good as that? A sparkly, festive drink with an adorably quaint name: the Bee’s Knees. Make it even better by adding champagne! It’s what Daisy Buchanan would do.
The Sparkling Bee’s Knees
Makes 2 cocktails
1¼ oz. Gin (I used Tanqueray)
¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
¾ oz. honey syrup (recipe below)
2 coupe glasses
Brandied or maraschino cherries*
Combine gin, lemon juice, and honey syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into two coupes. Top with champagne. Garnish with lemon peel and cherry.
Honey Syrup: To make the honey syrup, add ½ cup bottled or filtered water (see obligatory water lecture below) to a saucepan and heat until nearly boiling. Remove from heat and add ½ cup honey. Stir to combine. Allow to cool before mixing your drink. Honey syrup will keep in a jar in the refrigerator for about a week.
* Please don’t use those atomic red dye # 5 cherries that you find in the ice cream sundae section of the grocery store. They will almost certainly give you cancer. Look for Tillen Farms cherries instead – they use real sugar, not corn syrup, and no artificial dye. Sure, they’re easily double the price of those bright red abominations, but they last for a long time in the fridge. They sell Tillen Farms at Whole Foods, Vitacost.com, and larger liquor stores, but I think they’re getting more popular. I found a bottle at my local Publix Liquor Store. If you’re feeling extra fancy, buy a bottle of Luxardo cherries like I did. They’re absurdly expensive, but they’re also absurdly delicious. (You can also make your own!)
The Plan: Romantic Dinner with Your Boo
The Drink: Boulevardier
There’s something so sexy about having cocktails with your lover on a festive evening. If you plan to stay in for a romantic dinner, or if you just want to start the evening off right before hitting up the NYE parties, the boulevardier is a sultry, sexy cocktail that’s perfect for winter.
Trigger warning: this drink contains Campari, which is a bitter aperitif. Orr Shtuhl, author of An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails: 50 Classic Cocktail Recipes, Tips, and Tales, an excellent cocktail book that I heartily recommend, describes Campari perfectly as a “vividly red spirit with the candy sweetness and medicinal bitterness of an orange, from juice to pith.” If you like bitter flavors like I do, then this drink is for you. (If bitter isn’t your jam, why not try a classic like the Perfect Manhattan? It’s just as sexy and not at all bitter.)
Makes 1 cocktail
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. bourbon or rye (Crown Royal also works well)
1 oz. sweet vermouth**
old fashioned glass
Combine over ice, give it a stir and garnish with an orange twist.
** Vermouth is a fortified wine, and as such, must be refrigerated after opening and used within a month or so. If you’ve always hated Vermouth, it’s likely that you just haven’t had fresh Vermouth, so give it another try. (Bonus: Vermouth can be used in cooking as you would use wine. Dry Vermouth can be used in place of a dry white wine, and Sweet Vermouth can be used as a sweet red wine. Even more reason to keep a bottle in the fridge!)
*** I candied some orange peel just to be fancy, which you can do by simmering one cup of sugar with one cup of water and the peel from one large orange (peel off using a vegetable peeler in large strips) until syrup has reduced by half and orange peel is slightly translucent and can be easily pierced with a knife. If it’s not soft enough, add more water and more sugar, in equal parts and keep simmering until it is. It took about 30 minutes of simmering for my orange peel to become tender enough. Store the syrup and peel in a small jar in the fridge. It should keep for at least two weeks.
The Plan: Going to Bed Early
The Drink: Hot Toddy
There are lots of reasons to go to bed early on New Years. Maybe you have a dreaded winter cold, a new baby, or maybe you’re just sleepy. Whatever the case, when midnight seems impossibly far away, this drink will keep you cozy while those yahoos party all night. Who needs to go out when you can Netflix and chill?
While researching for this post, I came across this lovely article about the hot toddy, in which the author recommends higher-proof liquors. I used bourbon, because, well, I love bourbon, but you can use whiskey, rum, or scotch.
Honey Bourbon Hot Toddy
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes 2 warm and cozy drinks
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup hot water
6 tablespoons bourbon
2 cinnamon sticks (optional)
two small mugs
stirrer (a spoon would work)
Start by filling your mug with hot water while you gather your supplies. This will ensure that your hot toddy remains hot for as long as possible. Using your vegetable peeler, peel two long strips of zest from your lemon. Slice the lemon into several rounds, leaving half of the lemon in tact. Heat your water in a glass measuring cup in the microwave until nearly boiling, about 1 minute on high power, or on the stovetop until there is steam rising from the water and small bubbles are forming. (Obligatory water lecture: I prefer bottled or filtered water because I’m a water snob and because Tampa water doesn’t taste great. Keep in mind that you’re mixing the water with bourbon, which is a high quality and possibly expensive ingredient. You don’t want to flavor your good bourbon with chlorinated metallic-tasting water. Of course, if your municipality has delicious tap water, feel free to use that.)
Empty your now-warm mugs. Add 1 tablespoon honey, 3 tablespoons bourbon, 1 slice lemon and 1 piece lemon peel to each mug, and top with ½ cup hot water. Stir to combine and dissolve honey. Add a cinnamon stick if you’re feeling festive. Now get in bed! It’s late.