Be it champagne, prosecco or even sparkling cider, no single beverage rings in the New Year better than a bottle of something bubbly. And though a simple flute of France's finest is a certainly toast-worthy, creative cocktails that incorporate sparkling wines are what's bubbling up at the bar this holiday season and beyond.
FIZZ FACTOR “Sparkling beverages are experiencing a new-found popularity,” says Anthony Schuch, beverage director of Atlanta-based A Legendary Event. “The trend is to stay away from traditional, heavier drinks [around the holidays] such as egg nog or grasshoppers.” One of the more exotic sparkling beverages making its way into Schuch's cocktails this year is Nuvo, a sparkling pink champagne liqueur that he incorporates into cosmopolitans and mimosas, giving each a decidedly effervescent flavor profile. “Think ‘lemon drop martini meets cosmo sans cranberry,’” he says of his signature Nuvo Cosmo. While the Nuvo Mimosa, which includes apricot brandy, is “something to sip by the fire after dinner.”
If you are going to serve straight champagne, how-ever, go big with the garnish, says Kelley Gillespie of GEM Events in Vienna, Va. For an event themed around the four elements, Gillespie — working with Arlington, Va.-based Design Cuisine caterers — topped flutes of champagne with fluffy, pink spun-sugar clouds. “We wanted a light drink for the ‘Air Bar’ that would literally float,” she says.
Making a bold presentation with something simple like champagne, she notes, is also key. Playing on the notion of a champagne bath at the nearby “Water Bar,” the caterer placed an ice-filled, claw-footed tub at the edge of a massive fountain and filled it with splits of champagne. A waiter dressed in black tie passed out flirty straws in lieu of fussy flutes.
Champagne tastes on a beer budget? Seek soda or cider for the fizz factor. Gillespie's Swanky Cider, initially created for a fall event by Arlington-based Main Event Caterers, incorporates both beverages for a cozy yet contemporary spin. “The spiced cider is nostalgic, but the bourbon gives it sophistication,” she says.
TO YOUR HEALTH Gillespie is also seeing a trend toward healthy, spa-style ingredients — especially in nonalcoholic alternatives. Case in point, her “Mother Earth Bar,” also at the four elements-themed event, which featured shots of fresh fruit smoothies boosted Jamba Juice-style with antioxidant powders, as well as Vitamin Water herbal elixirs and lemon-basil infused spring water. To add an element of surprise to the service, Gillespie stationed a model completely camouflaged as a potted plant next to the bar to pass out napkins and pluck empty glasses from guests' hands. “It was so unexpected and provided a fun centerpiece to the bar,” she says. “People were gathered around the bar just to see what [the plant] would do to unsuspecting passersby.”
SHAKE UP THE SERVICE If martinis are best shaken not stirred, then what must a “flipped” martini taste like? According to Gillespie, success. Her “bouncing bartenders” take the cocktail to new heights — literally. Shakers in hand, acrobatic bartenders flip head over heels to mix drinks, blending beverages with entertainment. “The [acrobats] play off each other, and move to the front of the bar to entertain the guests, who are absolutely mesmerized by the show,” she says.
Often, Gillespie will tie in a drink sponsorship with this type of interactive bar presentation. “These specialty drinks have to be a focal point so the attendees will get it,” she says. “They often miss so much with subtle decor and hinted themes. The more blatant I can be, the better the product is conveyed.”
STAYING ALIVE Sandy “O” Fergus of Conshohocken, Pa.-based Creative Juice Group concurs. The company recently created its “Living Bars” with one goal in mind: To integrate one the most desired event elements — beverages — with the “wow factor” of entertainment.
Creative Juice Group works with caterers to create its living bars, which feature models — either costumed or body-painted — dispensing drinks and dialogue. One of the most popular is the “Anita Merlot,” a wine-serving maiden decked out in fall foliage. Fergus too encourages her clients to create a signature drink that complements the event theme, and builds the living bar around it. “We've done everything from martinis at a Roaring Twenties party to root beer floats at a bat mitzvah,” she says. “The key ingredient in any combination is to shake it up!”
THE NUVO COSMO
BY A LENGENDARY EVENT
4 parts Nuvo liqueur
1 part Ketel One vodka
2 parts fresh squeezed lemon juice
Shake and strain into a sugar-rimmed martini glass; garnish with a lemon twist.
BY MAIN EVENT CATERERS
Stirrings Spiced Apple Martini Mixer
1 part Maker's Mark Bourbon
1 part apple schnapps
Mix the bourbon and apple schnapps in a tall ice-filled glass. Fill with Spiced Apple. Top with splash of ginger ale; garnish with apple slices.
A Legendary Event
Creative Juice Group
Main Event Caterers