Get The Best Champagne Buzz This NYE With Our Ultimate Toasting Guide!

Champagne and New Year's Eve are a perfect, but sometimes pricey pairing. So, how do you get in on the action without breaking the bank? We asked our favorite wine expert, Whitney Adams of Brunellos Have More Fun, to hook us up with the best sparklers at the biggest bargains, and some key tips to steer you away from that same bottle of supermarket champers. She walks us through five types of sparkling wine you need to know now and her top picks for every bubbly pouring occasion. Then we set you up with our favorite spots in L.A. to sip the good stuff! And, as if this hit-list isn't enough to make anyone's head spin, all of this talk of tipsy-time inspired us to create an easy, crowd-pleasing champagne cocktail for you to serve (pre-game, anyone?)!
recipe
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The Guide To Five Styles of Sparkling Wine
1. Grower Champagne aka Farmer Fizz is the Anti-Veuve Clicquot. These are smaller production bottlings made by the people that also grow the grapes. You're not spending your hard-earned dollars on mass-produced bubbly with aims of tasting the same year to year, you're supporting real winemakers that are creating a wine reflective of the terroir and the vintage. Look for the letters RM in small type on the bottom of the label, and you'll know you have a grower!
2. The Champagne Method, sometimes written on labels as Classic Method or Traditional Method, is not used just in that small region in Northeastern France. Cava from Spain, Franciacorta in Italy, Cremant de Bourgogne, even Sekt Riesling from Germany carry out the second fermentation in the bottle, as is the Champagne way. You can get those Champagne bubbles at half the price by keeping this in mind.
3. Some sparkling wines are not as vigorously bubbly as Champagne, which is due to their method of production. You might see these spirits specified as frizzante (Italy), and moustillant (France). Prosecco is a great example of this. Its affordable price and softer bubbles are both great reasons why it's the perfect holiday punch addition.
4. Remember that bubbly comes in all colors, it's not always bright and white. There's pink, of course, but don't forget about the reds! Italy has two great versions of frizzante — Lambrusco and Gragnano. There's also sparkling Shiraz from Australia and sparkling Pinot Noir from Burgundy, to name a few more!
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5. There's more to the world of sweet bubbly than Moscato d'Asti. Look to France for interesting geek-worthy wine called petillant natural and methode ancestrale styles of sparkling that usually have a bit of residual sugar still left in the bottle.
Photography by Claire Thomas.
bottles
The Secret Weapons: Five Inexpensive Sparklers And The Ultimate Gateway Champagne
1. Cava
NV German Gilabert Cava, $15, available at Domaine L.A.
The best 15 bucks you can spend! It drinks like it's double the price, and would fool any party guest. Dry, crisp, and a little toasty with deliciously foamy bubbles.
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2. Lambrusco
2010 Saetti Lambrusco, $18, available at Domaine L.A..
Dark and inky cherry fruit with a touch of tannin and structure. Great for a charcuterie plate, but can take you through an entire meal.
3. Petillant Natural
Olivier Lemasson "Pow Blop Wizz", $20 available at Domaine L.A..
A wild card of a wine, and so fun to drink! This blend of Loire Valley red grape varieties Grolleau and Pineau d'Aunis is almost like a white ale disguised as a rosé: unfiltered, apple-y, flavors of grapefruit and pear, and a touch of mysteriousness. Very limited availability.
4. Methode Ancestrale
Patrick Bottex "La Cueille" Bugey-Cerdon Rosé, $20, available at Domaine L.A..
This wine tastes of the prettiest, freshest wild strawberries. It's delicately sweet and has a mouth-watering finish. Addicting and perfect for a strawberry bourbon punch (see below)!
5. Grower Champagne
Cedric Bouchard "Inflorescence" Blanc de Noirs, around $60, available at Domaine L.A..
This is the Gateway wine to the world of Grower Champagnes. Once you go Bouchard, you will never go back to big name champers. It's made with care from all 2009 Pinot Noir grapes, and is elegant, nuanced, and delicious. We dare you to not like it.
Domaine L.A., 6801 Melrose Avenue (near North Orange Drive); 323-932-0280.
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Photography By Whitney Adams.
places
Where To Swill: The Best Champagne Cocktails in L.A.
Copa d'Oro
If you're looking for a tucked away spot in downtown Santa Monica to relax, Copa d'Oro (meaning the golden cup) is the perfect spot to ring in the new year. Sourcing fresh, organic sustainable produce from local farmers, the bartenders invite you to mix and match your own cocktail from their extensive menu. If you're looking to just imbibe, they also cover the classics with some updates.
Where: 217 Broadway (at Second Street); 310-576-3030.
What to order: The Buck Fizz (Gin, Champagne, Orange juice, and Cherry Brandy)
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The Varnish
This is the "go-to" for classic cocktails. Always balanced, never fussy, the drinks here absolutely gorgeous. "Ask the bartender" is the way to order. Simply tell them your likes and dislikes, and they'll create a cocktail customized to your palate.
Where: 118 East 6th Street (between South Main and Spring streets); 213-622-9999.
What to Order: An Air Mail (Champagne, Lime, and Honey)
Cana Rum Bar
Head to the Caribbean, or at least the Caribbean-inspired, Cana Rum Bar for a warm outdoor fireplace and refreshing daiquiris. With wood paneled walls and cigar smoke in the air, this intimate bar is perfect for a weeknight escape or night out on the town.
Where: 714 West Olympic Boulevard (at South Flower Street); (213) 745-7090.
What to order: Crimean Punch (Ferrand Cognac, Jamaican Rum, lemon, orgeat, maraschino, champagne)
The Roger Room
This undercover lounge is a tight squeeze, but once you get a cocktail in your hand you'll hardly notice the crowd. Old-school flair and a super-intimate setting make this bar a great hangout for New Year's Eve.
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Where: 370 North La Cienega Boulevard (at Oakwood Avenue); 310-854-1300.
What to order: The Dame (Hennessy, Cherry juice, Lemon, Champagne)
Photography: Via Varnish and Cana Rum Bar.
recipe2
The Perfect New Year's Eve Champagne Punch
Shaking individual cocktails when you should be getting your party on is such a chore, so join in the fun with this no-brainer punch that will please the pickiest ladies and hardest drinking lads. Inspired by a cocktail called "The Bloodhound," it's a delicious mix of bourbon infused with strawberries, fresh lemon juice, a touch of simple syrup, some angostura for depth, and champagne to top it off. Not too fruity and not too aggressive, it's the ultimate crowd-pleaser.
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For 8
Ingredients:
*10 oz bourbon
*1 cup strawberries, sliced, plus more for garnish
*4 dashes angostura bitters
*2 tablespoons lemon juice
*2 oz simple syrup
*1 bottle (25 oz) sparkling wine, like "La Cueille" by Patrick Bottex, $20
*Ice
Directions:
The day before serving the punch, mix the bourbon with the strawberries and leave them in the fridge overnight to infuse. To serve, strain the bourbon into a punch bowl and add some fresh strawberries for garnish. Stir in the lemon juice, simple syrup, and angostura. Give it a quick taste and adjust until balanced (if anything, it's best to leave it a little on the sweet side to counter the champagne), and pour in a bottle of champagne. Add ice cubes and stir. Let guests serve themselves with a ladle. Cheers!
Photography By Claire Thomas.
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