Recipe for Disaster: Champagne Cocktails for New Year's Eve (Or Your Hangover)

Birthday girl and birthday champagne
Birthday girl and birthday champagne
Courtesy of Meredith Graves

[Meredith Graves — Perfect Pussy frontwoman, Honor Press founder, Voice festival correspondent, etc. — loves making and eating food just as much as she loves making and listening to music. This week, Meredith is heading to the bar instead of the kitchen, because 2015 deserves to go out with a bang — or the pop of a champagne bottle, specifically.]

In another life, many years ago, before my time in this band, before I hemmed a single prom dress, I was your cheery neighborhood bartender. I am referring to a time in my life, of course, when I shaved my head, wore giant boots, holey shirts, and a permanent frown. I poured wine at a Moroccan restaurant, a job I loved because the owner’s wife would pack me dinner every night before I left. I worked at townie bars where local farmers sold cut coke in the bathroom, and college bars where I was instructed to serve certain patrons shots of straight juice once they got blackout, but to charge them anyway.

Though I was not quite the ideal type for a female bartender in a college town, I made good money, largely because I served as a fill-in psychiatrist and surrogate girlfriend. And while I don’t miss the job in general, I do miss being paid to attend shows and learning how to mix weird cocktails that no one will ever order.

I don’t drink much any more, and when I do it’s often wine or beer. The last thing I want to be is a hassle to another bartender, ordering some creme-de-violette-and-egg-white concoction in a crowded bar, but once in a while I like to play with cocktails.

I also love champagne, rather notoriously. I tried to find a photo from my 26th birthday — my last before the band really started to do stuff, when I was still a normal human from a tiny town, when I’d just gone through a gnarly breakup and told myself I deserved a party, and a hundred people, only half of whom I knew, showed up in my tiny one-bedroom apartment. I figured I might as well enjoy it, so I got loaded on champagne and hand-fed people cake. I ran up onto the roof of my building in the rain (waving my second personal bottle of the evening) and blew off bottle rockets… until the police arrived. No regrets.

Twenty-fifteen was cool. I started writing this column, which I’ve loved. Some rough shit went down, but it was pretty awesome, all told. Buying champagne for New Years is a waste. Nobody can afford champagne of any quality. It’s better to buy a couple bottles of cheap champagne and a bottle of liquor and make crazy cocktails.

Champagne cocktails feel like a throwback to the jazz age. You can get some edible flowers and herbs and make pretty ice cubes. You can make freaky freshman year rainbow sherbet champagne punch for all I care. The sweeter, the better for most people — the sugar and fruit components in all the recipes below can be adjusted to taste.

My resolutions are: Take a bread-making workshop, volunteer in my neighborhood, go to Rome, and stop dyeing my hair black every time I have a bad Saturday.

Happy 2016, y'all.


Meredith Graves for the Village Voice

1. Off-Brand Fireworks In the Sonoran Desert

A tequila sparkler is usually made with tequila, champagne and limes, but that’s gross. It sounds like it tastes like soap. Instead, make it like a Desert Flower. My favorite is the one offered at Dimes, made with a type of tequila that’s straight up spicy. If you don’t have that on hand, add a pinch of Mexican hot chili powder to the sugar and lemon.

Sub champagne for the creme de cassis (or any one of a number of liqueurs used in so-and-so’s specific type of Desert Flower). No, it isn’t an exact substitution, but it still tastes good and God hates purists. 

A little over 1 shot (50 ml) of tequila
2 tsp (10 ml-ish) of sugar syrup
Champagne (or Brut, or Prosecco)
Mexican chili pepper
2 lemon wedges
Crushed ice

- Muddle (or, uh, fork the crap out of) one lemon wedge with sugar syrup and a pinch of chili pepper in the bottom of a short glass or Mason jar

- Add tequila and ice, stir

- Fill glass the rest of the way with champagne and swirl it around

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- Garnish with lemon

2. Sixty Fifteen (Soixante-Quinze)

A French 75 is apparently named after some sort of early-20th-century weaponry, to give you an idea of its relative strength. I had my first one in a JFK airport bar this summer waiting with my bandmates for a late flight to Detroit. It was overpriced and looked like dirty bathwater, but I liked it. This is a pseudo-French-75 with basil. I made fancy basil ice cubes, because that’s a really easy way to make something look fancy.

1 shot (50ml) gin
2 tsp (10 ml-ish) sugar syrup
1 lemon wedge
Three or four torn basil leaves

- Muddle torn basil leaves with sugar in the bottom of a tall glass. Squeeze in the lemon wedge, taking care to avoid seeds. Stir.

- Add ice and fill glass with champagne

3. Lemmy’s Girl

One of my heroes died this week. I hope he was one of your heroes, too. He drank Jack Daniels every day, apparently. I made a whiskey drink, a variation on an Americana, in his honor.

1 shot (50ml) whiskey (I used Knob Creek bourbon)
1 ripe peach, quartered
Bitters (I prefer traditional, but orange could work, too)

- Muddle a ripe peach quarter with a shot of whiskey and a dash of bitters in the bottom of a short glass or Mason jar

- Taste, add more peach or a dash of sugar syrup if it’s not sweet enough, and when no one’s looking, add a bunch more whiskey. It’s what Lemmy would want.

- Add ice, top with champagne, decorate with a big ol’ chunk of peach

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