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Cheers! The perfect way to serve Champagne on New Year's Eve

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Posted at 4:09 PM, Dec 30, 2022

Champagne, sparkling wine and all the liquid gold in between are festive, bubbly drinks to celebrate the New Year.

But as Shamarah Reid, a bartender at the Humble Bistro in Phoenix explained, serving a glass of Champagne takes more than pouring the drink into a glass.

First, it is important to know the difference between Champagne, sparkling wine, and all the variations available for purchase. Champagne is a sparkling wine, but a sparkling wine cannot be a Champagne.

“When you're talking about sparkling wine, you're talking about what you think of as Champagne,” Reid said. “That terminology comes from the Champagne region in France. So you are not technically allowed to call it Champagne unless the majority of your grapes came from the Champagne region in France.”

Sarah Tracey, a sommelier and Martha Stewart’s wine writer broke it down even further.

Champagne, Tracey said, “is a protected term by the French government.”

But sparkling wines made in the artisanal, traditional method outside of the Champagne region can offer “every bit of quality that you can get from a bottle in France,” Tracey said, as she recommended a budget-friendly bottle of Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut for New Year’s Eve.

RELATED: How to impress with holiday wine without spending too much

Sparkling wine, Reid explained, typically means the grapes used in the beverage come from California.

“But it is still what you think of as a Champagne,” Reid said.

Breaking it down even further, Reid explained the difference between terms like brut, rosé, and prosecco, all popular types of sparkling wine and Champagne on New Year’s Eve.

“Brut is actually French for ‘dry,’” Reid said. “So, your fruits are just gonna be a little drier, a little crisper.”

Rosé, Reid explained, is a type of wine that incorporates the skins of red grapes.

“You'll start to get into something a little more sweet,” she said. “It’s this pinkish color. Those Pinot Noir [grape] skins are actually used, so you get this color development.”

Proseccos tend to run on the sweeter side, Reid noted.

When it comes to serving Champagne or sparkling wine, Reid recommended serving it as cold as possible.

“The bubbles kind of go crazy as the warmer it gets. So, that can make opening your water a little bit more annoying,” Reid said.

As much as people appear to enjoy the dramatic “pop” of a Champagne bottle, Reid said the ideal opening of a bottle of Champagne is silent.

“Most people, they see the big, dramatic Hollywood pop,” she said. “We don’t want that.”

In terms of glassware, Champagne is typically served in slim glasses with narrow bowls called Champagne flutes.

The history behind the rise of the Champagne flute is murky at best. And the story behind the coupe’s inspiration is equally fascinating.

But Reid’s favorite anecdote on the subject relates to waiters who needed to fit more glasses onto a tray when serving at parties.

“They wanted to be able to fit about 50 glasses on one tray so the waiters weren't having to do quite as much work,” Reid said.

The wide-rimmed coupe glass is actually the preferred serving method for Champagnes, according to Reid.

“Some of the house [wine] makers will very happily admit this to you,” she said. “When you have this wider top, you're getting more bubbles to the surface, more air to the surface.”

Letting the bubbles release and float to the surface allows patrons to inhale the drink’s fragrance, which leads to enhanced flavor profiles.

“You're actually going to get a more rounded experience as opposed to just the bubbles that you got here,” Reid said, pointing to a Champagne flute. “But you know what, if you like these [Champagne flutes], cheers to you.”

For New Year’s Eve, Reid broke down the recipe for the Humble Bistro’s Secco Seventy Five, a twist on the classic French 75.

Ingredients: 

  • ½ ounce of blood orange simple syrup (homemade or available for purchase)
  • ¼ ounce of lemon juice (freshly squeezed or concentrate from the store)
  • 1 ½ ounces of gin
  • 2-3 ounces of Champagne to top it off
  • Optional: dehydrated lime slices for garnish. (“These are very easy to make,” Reid said. “Slice them, then pop them in a warm oven for like three to four hours. Your house smells great. And then you have this beautiful fancy garnish for your guests.”)

Instructions:

  1. Put your cocktail glass into the freezer to cool while you prepare the cocktail. 
  2. Add ice to a cocktail shaker. 
  3. Pour ½ ounce of blood orange simple syrup,  ¼ ounce of lemon juice, followed and 1 ½ ounces of the gin of your choice  into a cocktail shaker.
  4. Put the lid on the cocktail shaker, and shake vigorously until a light frost appears on the surface (20-30 seconds). 
  5. Pour mixture into the cooled cocktail glass. Top with 2-3 ounces of Champagne. Add dehydrated lime garnish.