If I asked you the question “What brings you joy?” would you be able to answer it? Not just happiness, not contentment, or satisfaction, but pure joy. I’ve come to believe that it’s one of the rarest emotions we feel as adults, and yet it was probably one that we felt most often when we were young. In fact, I think if you observe kids of different ages, you can see that the joyful moments become less and less frequent the older they get. It’s as if the heaviness of the world starts pressing down and joy has no room to breathe, …
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While the rest of the world sips Champagne this coming Saturday the whiskey lover stands his or her ground and says, “nope, not me, not gonna drink it,” and goes on sipping an Old-fashioned. I completely understand. When you are a dark spirit drinker it’s hard to make the switch to anything else, even if it is New Year’s Eve and there’s nothing more festive than a Champagne Cocktail. So what’s the solution for the whiskey lovers in your life as the countdown to midnight begins? To find the answer I consulted the experts at Woodford Reserve, one of Kentucky’s oldest and distilleries in the heart of Bourbon Country, via their Woodford Reserve Culinary Cocktail Tour: A Journey With Bourbon. This beautiful book just happens to be the official cookbook of the Kentucky Derby. As it turns out there is a version of the Champagne Cocktail that replaces the brandy with bourbon and the sugar cube with a vanilla simple syrup. There are no bitters in this drink and the garnish is a half of a vanilla bean. The vanilla has the effect of accentuating the smoothness of the bourbon, as well as adding a bit of sweetness. The Champagne, of course, adds the bubbles and the elegance. The end result has enough of a bourbon flavor to satisfy the whiskey lovers, while still maintaining enough of a festive feel to remind them that it’s New Year’s Eve. Definitely serve this cocktail to your whiskey fans or, if you’re doing the Champagne Cocktail party idea from my last post, include a bottle of bourbon and some vanilla simple syrup on the buffet!
The Bourbon and Champagne Cocktail
1 oz Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon (or a similar smooth bourbon like Buffalo Trace)
½ oz vanilla simple syrup*
4 oz Champagne
½ vanilla bean for garnishing
Mix the bourbon and syrup in a Champagne flute and then top with chilled Champagne. Garnish with the half vanilla bean. Enjoy!
*Vanilla Simple Syrup
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
2 vanilla beans
Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan. Split the vanilla beans lengthwise into halves and place in a Mason jar. Pour the hot syrup over the vanilla beans and let stand for 8 to 10 hours. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.
I can’t think of anything more festive than a Champagne Cocktail, the perfect drink for your New Year’s Eve celebration in just a few days. Although it follows a very traditional recipe whose origins go back as far as 1862, there are many modern variations of this drink and a number of ways in which you can put your own unique twist on it. At it’s most basic, the Champagne Cocktail contains a sugar cube (either white or demerara), aromatic bitters, brandy, the Champagne itself, and some type of citrus or cherry garmish. Since it makes up such a large part of the drink, it’s important to use as good a quality Champagne as you can, or at the very least one whose taste you really enjoy. Champagne is fizzy in and of itself, but when it hits the sugar cube at the bottom of the glass, it sends up a tower of bubbles that makes a super fun presentation for your guests. You’ll want your ingredients to be as cold as possible, including the Champagne flutes themselves. You can either chill your brandy in the fridge, or place it in a pitcher over ice, stir it long enough to get it really cold, and then discard the ice. Alternatively, there are also variations of this recipe that include adding an ice cube directly to the drink to keep it well chilled, so that’s definitely another option.
As I was doing some research for this post I came across an idea on alcoholprofessor.com that I wanted to share with you. It involves setting up a kind of buffet of ingredients for party guests to make their own Champagne cocktails. For example, you could offer both white and brown sugar cubes, a selection of bitters, various spirits like brandy, Benedictine, Suze, St. Germain, Chartreuse (the possibilities are endless), a white and rosé Champagne, and various garnishes. You’ll want to instruct your guests to limit the amount of the spirits they use to anywhere from a teaspoon on up to an ounce, and the bitters to about 3 dashes, or enough to saturate the sugar cube. You might want to ask each guest to bring a spirit, along with a description of its flavor profile (easy to find online) to help people decide which combinations to put together. Encourage everyone to be creative and have fun!
1 sugar cube
3 dashes aromatic bitters
Champagne (use the best quality that you can)
1 oz brandy
Long orange peel for garnishing
Place the sugar cube in the bottom of a Champagne flute. Saturate the cube with the bitters. Add the brandy. Fill the rest of the way with chilled Champagne. The sugar cube will begin to dissolve, creating bubbles. Garnish with the orange strip. Enjoy!