In 1944's Meet Me in St. Louis, Judy Garland famously encouraged us to "have a merry little Christmas." The original draft of the song also told us to "pop that champagne cork" because this time next year, heaven forbid, "we might all be living in New York." And seeing as recent news headlines designated New Yorkers to be the unhappiest people in all fifty states, that is indeed a reason to drink.
The lovely old sentiment in "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" has a perfect wistfulness for the holiday season, with anticipation for the fun to come and nostalgia for times past, but at the time, it was too sad for some. In final versions of the song, in an attempt to cheer things up a bit, songwriter Hugh Martin reluctantly changed some of the lyrics. The lines "Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight" attempted to jolly things up. The amended song grew to be one of the most popular in the Christmas canon. And perhaps it can be said that "Have yourself a merry little Christmas / It could be your last" is a line only a New Yorker could love.
So do pop that champagne cork to jolly things up — for Christmas and for New Year's! If you are having a New Year's party, champagne is expected, of course, but try some champagne cocktails to gladden and invigorate your party. Turn to those "happy golden days of yore" for ideas on how to enliven familiar champagne concepts!
New Year's. It can be amateur night, but oh, the champagne. A good champagne makes all that counting down, kissing strangers, up way past my bedtime, all worth it. Champagne, a perfect drink to celebrate what's past, what's present, what's future.
The Champagne Cocktail
The first champagne cocktail we'll discuss is the Champagne Cocktail. This drink couldn't be easier, but your New Year's guests don't need to know this. In a champagne flute, place one sugar cube and four dashes of Angostura bitters. Fill with champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist.
I took the Champagne Cocktail for a test drive at one of my favorite theatre hangouts, Angus McIndoe's in New York City. Across the street from The Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic and next door to the St. James Theatre, there are plenty of theatre types there for celebrity sightings, at least for a theatre geek like myself. Best sighting? Matthew Broderick with his small son in tow. No one approached him for an autograph. Angus McIndoe's is a home away from home.
The Champagne Cocktail has a beautiful rosy hue and has a built-in hangover remedy. I've always been a proponent of bitters for the morning after. The morning after — I'll think about that tomorrow.
Another easy champagne cocktail to try for a different take on a New Year's party is the French 75. A more sophisticated take on the theme, the French 75 is named for a World War I gun. The innovator supposedly didn't get enough kick out of champagne. Sometimes, the recipe calls for cognac instead of gin, but I find that the lighter flavor of the gin sits well with the champagne.
The French 75
2 oz. gin
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. superfine sugar
Shake the first three ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker until frost develops on the outside of the shaker.
Strain into a champagne flute and top with champagne. Stir gently and garnish with a lemon spiral and a cherry. Like the gun it was named for, the drink kicks with remarkable accuracy.
If you have time after Christmas, visit your local Williams Sonoma store. On the 27th and 28th of December, they are offering demonstrations in mixing cocktails. Call your local store for more information. Any good ideas, please share with the rest of us! And remember, "from now on, we'll have to muddle through somehow. Have yourself a merry little Christmas" — and a merry, grand New Year's.
No good times like the olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us no more.
But at least we all will be together
If the Lord allows
From now on, we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.