AlcoHOLidays | New Year’s Eve | Holiday Sparkler



As the end of the year comes rushing at us, completing our annual cycle, I feel the need to simplify. I think the holiday overwhelm always makes me feel this way, so why complicate things any more than they need to be?

You can’t go wrong with simple Champagne or sparkling wines served chilled in a tall flute to best show off their bubbles. Adding a hulled strawberry or other muddled berries to the bottom of the glass is a nice touch or you can add a splash of your favorite liqueur.

The important thing is to open the sparkling wine correctly. In case you didn’t know, those foamy beginnings you see in movies are actually not to correct way–it means the bottle’s been shaken or otherwise mistreated prior to opening. In fact, there should be nothing more than a gentle pop when the cork comes free (and it’s best to have a bar towel held loosely over the cork to prevent it from flinging all over the room or into something–or someone–breakable).

But you don’t come here for simple, so if you absolutely require something a little more show-stopper, how about giving this a try:

Holiday Sparkler

Sugar Cube
Orange Bitters
1 oz Cranberry Juice
1/2 oz Elderflower Liqueur
1 oz [yellow tail] bubbles Rosé

Soak the sugar cube in the bitters and place in the bottom of a champagne flute. Add in the cranberry juice and elderflower liqueur, then top with the sparkling wine. Pour slowly and let the bubbles do the work. A slice of strawberry or a rock candy swizzle stick make sweet garnishes.

Elderflower liqueur–a classic spirit making a comeback in cocktail circles–in still an unknown for many, so offers that little something extra for your guests. And pulling out a box of sugar cubes always tends to spark interest in that it’s-so-retro way.

However you choose to celebrate, remember to stay hydrated with water between cocktails, make use of a designated driver or the ample public transportation systems sure to be out in force Monday night, or party at home and invite inebriated guests to spend the night rather than risk it on the roads.


(recipe and image courtesy of the Deutsch Family of Wine and Spirits)


Sips & Shots will be going on “holiday” for the month of January, along with the rest of the sites in the Helper Monkey Network, so that some much needed behind the scenes work can be taken care of. We’ll be back in full force come February!

AlcoHOLidays | Brazilian Independence Day | The Samba


Greetings and Salutations! Welcome to our next cocktail series, aptly titled AlcoHOLidays.

See what I did there? Of course you do! After all, you’re incredibly intelligent (I mean, you must be, you read this blog!) and it’s too early to be that far into your cups already, right?

So for this series we’ll be taking a look at holidays from all over, looking into the history a bit for each, and then sharing a drink recipe in honor of the most festive occasion. And if we manage to learn a little something in the process, expand our celebratory horizons if you will, then so be it!


First up on our calendar–this is just so convenient, I tell ya–is Brazilian Independence Day, today, September 7, and today we get a two-for: I’ll be reviewing a new-to-me sparkling wine (from Brazil, natch) and making a cocktail with it, too.

Independence from What?

Or, should I say, who?

Way back in 1500, Portuguese explorers landed on the coast of what is now Brazil and claimed it for their own. Which, you know, probably didn’t go over all that well with the many indigenous tribes already there, but exploration is not for the faint of heart. Or the overly polite. At least not when expansion is the plan.

The Samba, made with Carnaval Sparkling Moscato, in honor of Brazilian Independence Day

After some political machinations in the interest of Brazil becoming it’s own country (no longer part of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarves), in 1822 Prince Pedro was named Emperor Pedro I–breaking with the monarchy, but not too much. Dad (King João VI) wasn’t too pleased by this, as is to be expected, and the Independence wars continued through November 1823.

Even still, Independence Day is celebrated on September 7th as that is when Pedro reportedly declared

Hail to the independence, to freedom and to the separation of Brazil.
For my blood, my honor, my God, I swear to give Brazil freedom.
Independence or death!

And We’ll Drink to That!

Like we needed an excuse…

Today’s cocktail comes to us courtesy of Carnaval Brazilian Sparkling Wine.

The Samba

2 Strawberries, hulled (or 1 oz strawberry puree)
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1 oz Cachaςa*
2 oz Carnaval Sparkling Moscato
Strawberries for garnish

Muddle the strawberries in a mixing glass with the simple syrup and lemon juice. Add in ice and cachaÏ‚a, and shake until you’ve got the rhythm down. Stir in the Sparkling Moscato just until chilled and then strain into a champagne flute. Garnish with a spare strawberry.

*CachaÏ‚a is rum, but distinctly Brazilian. While all rum is made from sugar cane, Caribbean rums are made from what’s leftover after the sugar production process. CachaÏ‚a, on the other hand, is the only rum made from fresh sugar cane juice, giving it a decidedly different profile from it’s rummy brethren.

First let’s talk about the Carnaval Sparkling Moscato on it’s own. It comes in both red and white, with the red more a pink–how appropriate that we were just doing rosés last month, right? We opened the red for this cocktail and it’s light, fruity nose matches quite well with it’s soft pink color. Having been tricked before, though, I was trying not to expect any particular flavor from the wine before tasting it and was rewarded with a lightly sweet, fruity sparkling wine. I have no complaints about this wine and think it would make a wonderful celebratory tipple on it’s own.

But in this drink, what do I think? My first thought was strawberry daiquiri–but better. The cachaÏ‚a over the usual rum gives it a somewhat brighter flavor and, along with that little bit of lemon juice, keeps the drink from being syrupy sweet. I used the muddled strawberry method and really like that it turned a very light pink and had a few tiny bits of berry floating around on the bubbles even after being strained. This is something we’d definitely make again.

And what will we be celebrating next week? You’ll just have to come back and find out!



I was provided samples of Carnaval Sparkling Moscato for purposes of review. All opinions are my own. Historical information on Brazilian Independence Day was paraphrased from the wikipedia entry on the subject.