New Year’s Eve Sips and Nibbles

2010 has been a, well, challenging year for many, so it’s little surprise that people are ready to kiss it goodbye and welcome 2011 with open arms. We’ve got a lineup of elegant and nourishing cocktails and hors d’oeuvres to ring in the new year in style.

To sip:

As cocktail expert, Maria Hunt notes, if you’re hosting the festivities, guests are sure to arrive with sparkling wine, which is celebratory on its own and even better in cocktails. Check out Maria’s tips to create an interactive cocktail bar, plus her recipes for the Lava Lamp and Green Grapefruit.

To nibble:

Pair those bubbly sippers with a selection of savory and sweet items–all of which can be made well in advance. If you’re the host, you can prep these today or tomorrow. If you’re a guest, they’re also easy to tote to the party.

Coppa-Wrapped Dates with Blue Cheese: Assemble these before the party, then bake them just before you’re ready to serve. I took a batch of these to a Christmas dinner, and they disappeared in no time. They’re also so easy to make that I’ve made them for us to enjoy just before supper during the week.

Manchego and Nutmeg Gougeres: Lia likes to serve these lovely little cheese puffs with a glass of Spanish Cava.

Spanish Leaning Spinach and Chickpea Dip: The spinach in this tasty dip offers a serving of good-luck greens for the New Year and a dash of color to the table. Serve this with crudite.

Chicken Pate with Brandy: This is an uptown riff on my grandma’s chopped liver. Serve it with crackers or baguette and mustard and cornichons, and you’ll have a pretty little platter.

Endive Spears with Roquefort Mousse and Walnuts: This is classic party food. Make the mousse ahead, pop it into a pastry bag and refrigerate. Pipe it onto the endive leaves and top with toasted walnuts just before serving.

Rosemary-Parmesan Breadsticks: Another ideal finger food, these are so simple the kids can help you knead and shape the dough.

Boozy Orange-Pecan Truffles: You’ll want a little something sweet to round out the buffet. These petite chocolate truffles pack tons of flavor.

All of us at NOURISH Evolution wish you a happy, healthy, nourishing New Year! Cheers!

Sparkling Green Grapefruit Cocktail

This is an ideal winter cocktail to ring in the new year. The grapefruit juice contributes acidity, sweetness and seasonal flavor, the licorice-flavored absinthe lends a little bitterness and the Champagne adds the must-have sparkle. Absinthe–a k a the Green Fairy–is a powerful liqueur made from wormwood, and it’s making a comeback in artisanal cocktails. If you can’t find it, substitute another anise-flavored liqueur, such as Pernod.

2 ounces pink grapefruit juice
1/2 teaspoon absinthe OR Pernod
3 to 4 ounces Champagne or sparkling wine, chilled
Wedge of grapefruit, for garnish

Pour juice and absinthe into a Champagne flute. Top with the Champagne or sparkling wine. Garnish with the wedge of grapefruit.

Serves 1

Toast the New Year with Festive, Bubbly Cocktails

Ever wonder why some wines or cocktails make you want to take another sip while others make you grimace and wish you’d ordered something else? Personal preference aside, the difference between a delicious drink and one you can’t stand often comes down to balance.

When mixing cocktails, the challenge is to balance three elements: bitter, sweet and acid. Bitterness comes from hard spirits, while sweetness might come from a fruit juice, a sweet liqueur or syrup. Citrus juice or sparkling wine contribute acidity.

I’ll let you in on a secret I learned when writing my book: If you start with sparkling wine, you don’t have to add very much to create a brilliant cocktail.

Whether it’s Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, Champagne from France — well-made sparkling wines have a natural acidity that makes them a great base for delicious drinks. And I’ll let you in on a secret I learned when writing my book The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion (Clarkson Potter): If you start with sparkling wine, you don’t have to add very much to create a brilliant cocktail.

During wintertime, you’ll find that seasonal fruits like cranberries, pomegranates, grapefruit and tangerines pair beautifully with bubbly in cocktails. For parties, it makes things easier to either a) choose a signature cocktail to serve throughout the evening or b) create an interactive cocktail bar so guests can create their own concoctions.

If you’re hosting a New Year’s Eve party, guests are sure to show up with a bottle of a brut sparkling wine or Champagne in hand. As delicious as this crisp, citrusy sipper can be, after a few hours of drinking the same thing, it can get a bit monotonous.

Set all those bottles of bubbly in a large ice bucket and use them to create a cocktail bar that lets your guests be the mixologists. Your job is to stock the bar with complimentary mixers so guests can’t make a bad drink. Start with some liqueurs like the lemon liqueur called Limoncello, a berry liqueur like Chambord and something slightly exotic like St. Germain elderflower liqueur. Set out carafes of lemonade, tangerine or orange juice and cranberry juice. Fill a relish tray with garnishes like fresh basil and rosemary, raspberries, pomegranate seeds and slices of orange.

To make a super-simple holiday cocktail I call the Lava Lamp, fill a flute one-third with pomegranate juice or pomegranate liqueur. Top it off with brut sparkling wine, toss in a few fresh pomegranate seeds and watch the seeds dance up and down on the bubbles.

In my Green Grapefruit cocktail, juicy pink grapefruit marries with the anise flavors in absinthe to make for a sensational start to a holiday party.

No matter which cocktail you choose, you’ll find that any time you open a bottle of bubbly, it’s like uncorking a celebration.

Maria Hunt is and author of The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion (Clarkson Potter, 2009). For more recipes and information on entertaining with sparkling wine, visit