Herbal Champagne Cocktails

I was lucky enough to spend New Year’s Eve 2000 in Spain. As fate would have it, my family planned a Christmas trip to Vegas with some extended relatives and realized that they didn’t have enough room in the car for everyone. One person to be exact. Why I was volunteered as tribute to stay behind, I can’t recall but I was less than pleased. Is there a friend you can stay with? It’s only for a few days. These were the responses that met my disbelief. Plead for an invite to a friend’s house for Christmas? How pathetic! Absolutely not! I was not going to bum Christmas off a friend and I would not spend it alone! Monsters! Savages! I was fifteen after all.
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But I also had a sense of humor and spent days that followed, painting a melodramatic portrait of Christine’s Christmas Alone. There I’d sit, in our dark living room on Christmas Eve, illuminated by a solitary candle, shivering from the chill of loneliness more so than the temperature outside. I’d reach under the tree for presents on a frosty Christmas morning only to find that there were no festively wrapped gifts waiting for me. Instead, a post card emblazoned with a cartoonish Vegas Skyline that read: Gone Gamblin’. And as my tears froze on my icy cheeks, I’d curl up on the floor and fall asleep with the distant sound of slot machines ringing in my ears. I kept up the relentless guilt trip until a solution materialized itself, seemingly from the heavens.

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My Aunt, Uncle and cousins would be spending both Christmas and New Year’s in Spain. My Cousin Philip was studying abroad there. My mom tentatively brought this up one night and I paused, steeled myself, and prepared for one of the biggest persuasive arguments of my young life. I don’t need any presents this year—save one. I don’t need any gifts for my sixteenth birthday in January. I would prefer to be given instead the gift of experience! I’d be granted this Christmas miracle of partaking in the culture and cuisine of fair Barcelona! I’m cannot entirely recall how I presented my case, but that’s fairly accurate.

Suffice it to say, I was well-received. Thus, I was able to spend NYE 2000 gallivanting around the streets of Barcelona, with a bunch of college-aged kids from around the world, buzzed on champagne and Malibu Rum, doing my best to hold my own in conversations with people whose names I can’t recall, having the absolute time of my life. We hopped from apartment party to apartment party. We stayed out all night, roaming the streets with the rest of the city, watched the sun rise over the city. It was exhilarating. And looking back, it wasn’t just being entrenched in the history and beauty of Spain that left me thrilled.

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It was being so fully in the moment. I was completely fixed in the present and absorbed in energy around me. I felt very…alive. And you know, sure, maybe the champagne helped, but I really believe it was so much more. My wintry Spanish vacation was infinitely more than that night–it was life-changing–and I could ramble on about it for hours on end, but let’s save that for another time, another year.

Moving into this new year, my only real goal (I won’t say resolution) is to be more mindful of the present, what’s happening around me. I’m determined to revive the exhilaration of my youth, to be right here, right now. I know. I’m sounding like a motivational speaker. Maybe I’m getting more and more sentimental with time.

But there you have it. So on to the cocktails!

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Champagne at the stroke of midnight is all well and good, but we can do better than that. This whole year I have incorporated a lot of different herbs in both my sweet and savory dishes and I love to include them in cocktails. They provide a vibrant fresh kick to drinks and I knew I wanted that to be the theme of my trio of champagne cocktails for NYE. There are an infinite amount of ways you could play with the flavors in these drinks but this is what I ended up with.

Making your own simple syrups is very easy and absolutely worth it. I include my instructions for three variations below. Essentially would combine equal parts sugar and water with whatever flavor component you want to infuse the sugar with. For my fruit selections, I used what I had at home, experimenting with flavor. Try one out, or use the recipes as a template to create your own.

Well friends, Thank you for magical year! Anyone reading this is such a big part of what I do and I am so grateful you’ve stuck around! Have a Happy, Happy New Year and be sure to take the time to enjoy everything that’s going on around you, no matter where you spend your NYE!

See you in 2016! ~Christine

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Herbal Champagne Cocktails
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Ingredients
  1. Sage Ginger Pear Cocktail
  2. Makes 1 cocktail.
  3. 2-3 Tbsp. Ginger simple syrup
  4. 1.5 oz. Pear juice
  5. Champagne, Prosecco, or sparkling wine
  6. Spring of sage
  7. Pear slice, for garnish
  8. Thyme Mandarin Blackberry Cocktail
  9. Makes 1 cocktail.
  10. 2-3 Tbsp. Blackberry simple syrup
  11. Splash Mandarin juice
  12. Champagne, prosecco, or sparkling wine
  13. Spring of thyme
  14. Blackberries for garnish
  15. Mint Cherry Lime Cocktail
  16. Makes 1 cocktail.
  17. 2-3 Tbsp. Morello Cherry simple syrup (I bought the Morello Cherries in syrup from Trader Joe's).
  18. Splash Lime juice
  19. Champagne, prosecco, or sparkling wine
  20. Sprig of mint
  21. Cherries, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Make the Simple Syrups
  2. For each simple syrup you’ll need ¼ cup sugar and ¼ cup water.
  3. For the ginger simple syrup add in three slices ginger. For the cherry simple syrup add in 1/3 cup cherries with juice. For the blackberry simple syrup add in 2/3 cups blackberries.
  4. Simmer each batch of simple syrup, separately, over medium low heat for about 5 minutes, until it thickens slightly and sugar is completely dissolved. Allow to cool for a few minutes before spooning into champagne glasses.
  5. Make the Cocktails
  6. For each cocktail, spoon the simple syrup into a champagne glass first. Then pour in about an ounce of juice (pear, Mandarin, lime respectively).
  7. Next place the herbs and any other garnishes in each glass. (pear slice & sage, cherries and mint, blackberries and thyme). Tip:spank the herbs before adding to glass to release the oils and flavor.
  8. Top off each glass with champagne, Prosecco, or sparkling wine. Go slow, they tend to fizz over! Poruing slowly will allow the syrup to sit on the bottom and allow for a pretty ombre effect.
Notes
  1. I juiced my own pears. One was all I needed for one drink. But the pulp made for a cloudy cocktail which I had to make over with pear juice strained through cheese cloth. If you decide to make these, buy pear juice to save time!
  2. Also, for a more aesthetically pleasing cocktail, strain your citrus juices to remove any pulp...live and learn!
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