New Year’s Eve means Champagne, right? It’s a classic pairing — and for good reason. There’s something incredibly celebratory about popping a cork and sipping bubbles on the biggest party night of the year. But the truth is, there are many other options to consider. Cocktails are a good alternative — maybe something low-ABV if you’re planning an all-night celebration that will have you up until the wee hours. Or, if you’re opting for tried-and-true Champagne, what style will you choose?
The questions are many, so for some answers, we asked beverage professionals from across the country to weigh in with their favorite drinks for Dec. 31. Here’s what they said.
The Best New Year’s Eve Drinks, According to Drinks Pros
- Fish House punch
- Vintage Barolo
- Sparkling sake
- Miller High Life
- Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs grand cru
- Vincent Couche’s 1999 “Sensation”
- Trinidad Sour
- Champagne Salon
- Ruinart Blanc de Blancs
- Sparkling pét-nat
- 1988 Perrier Jouët Belle-Epoque Fleur de Champagne
- Grower Champagne
- Negroni Sbagliato
- Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle
- Gemello California Cabernets
- Non-Alcoholic Sparkling Wine
“Nothing speaks to the convivial nature of New Year’s Eve more than a communal bowl of punch. The bar-setting recipe for me is the Philadelphia Fish House Punch, originally conceived in its namesake city sometime in 1732. However, I like to make an extra festive NYE version by topping the punch bowl with a bottle of Champagne to give it the royal treatment.” —Danny Childs, head bartender, The Farm and Fisherman Tavern; author, “Slow Drinks,” Cherry Hill, N.J.
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“Barolo from a meaningful vintage. New Year’s often coincides with the changing of the truffle guard (from Alba to Périgord, hopefully they are abundant for your celebration). The wine is always special [and] pairs perfectly with crisp weather and truffles, ideally from a vintage that conjures great holidays in the past.” —Richard Hanauer, wine director, RPM Restaurants, Miami
“On New Year’s Eve, you will find me drinking sparkling sake! One of my favorites is the Festival of Stars, which would be considered ‘extra brut’ if it were Champagne, making it the perfect complement for otoro or fried chicken.” —Daniel Bennett, sake sommelier, Sushi-san and The Omakase Room at Sushi-san, Chicago
“Champagne, of course. This year has been one of the best in my life but it came with a cost, but everything has a cost! So I’m taking advice from my good friend Keith Motsi: ‘Work hard but never be cheap on yourself; eat and drink the best.’ I’ll be popping some Krug this New Year’s!” —Tito Pin-Perez, creative director, Rayo Cocktail Bar, Mexico City
“While I always cheers with a glass of bubbly at midnight, I spend most of my NYE drinking Miller High Life. Not only is it the Champagne of beer; it helps me pace myself and really enjoy the night with whatever company I’m with!” —Phil Collins, beverage director, TableOne Hospitality, Los Angeles and San Francisco
“Champagne… and Cosmos. Or Cosmos with a splash of Champagne. Definitely both.” —Coleen Morton, director of bars, Hotel Per La, Los Angeles
“I haven’t had a NYE off since I was 18, suffice to say that was a while ago. But, we always make time to have the traditional New Year toast with Champagne. If I wasn’t working, I would suggest having a nice glass of Armagnac and a cigar early and then a nice glass of Champagne with friends at midnight. Not only is Champagne traditional; it’s always a good idea to have a glass of Champagne. The better the Champagne, the better the toast.” —Gabe Sanchez, general manager, Midnight Rambler at The Joule, Dallas
“We French people — especially us Parisians — like to start the New Year festivities with oysters and seafood. There is nothing better to pair this with than a good blanc de blancs Champagne. My favorite is Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru.” —Simon Sebbah, beverage director, Saint Theo’s, New York City
“Champagne — always Champagne for NYE. Is there any other beverage worthy enough to ring in a New Year? Specifically, I am drinking Vincent Couche’s 1999 ‘Sensation.’ A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this wine has been waiting patiently on its lees for 20 years and is everything you could ask for, coming from one of the most talented vignerons in the Aube. This wine will make the new year taste like a new millennium.” —Luke Sullivan, sommelier, Eleven Madison Park, NYC
“For New Year’s Eve, I like to be extra and go for a Trinidad Sour with homemade orgeat. It’s bold, bitter, and spice-forward. It’s a cocktail to be enjoyed in moderation, another reason why I choose this special time of year to celebrate it. While everyone else is sipping sparkling wine, I’m in the corner with a fistful of bitters.” —Ulysses Toimil, bar manager, Uccello Lounge, San Francisco
“I will be drinking Salon Champagne. The perfect way to bring in the new year is with one of the greatest Champagnes on the planet. A wine like this gives you hope that the rest of the year will be somewhat close to as good.” —Josh Peeples, proprietor, Elyse Winery, Napa Valley, Calif.
“Nothing says celebration quite like Champagne. Bright and uplifting, my go-to has always been Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. With great acidity and flavors of green apple and lemon peel, it’s invigorating and the happiest of wines.” —Scott Taylor, beverage director, Harris’ Restaurant, San Francisco
“On New Year’s Eve, I’m going with a sparkling pét nat. Anything with bubbles will work, but I like my selection to be crisp, dry, and lots of funk to it.” —Michael Silva, head bartender, The Dean Hotel by Ash, Providence, R.I.
“Oh, it’s the new year. Make it a magnum!” —Matt Stamp, sommelier and founder, Compline Restaurant and Wine Shop, Napa, Calif.
“Champagne! Vintage is great. I really appreciate an older bottle of vintage Champagne where the hazelnut and buttery brioche flavors are intensified. I was lucky enough to pop the cork on a bottle of 1988 PJ Belle-Epoque Fleur de Champagne last year. I’d love to procure another ‘88 or ‘96 for this year’s send off!” —Francis Kulaga, beverage director, Birch & Rye, San Francisco
“The real question isn’t about New Year’s Eve, which has historically been an evening spent working the floor, selling rather than drinking wine. Even now, as I’ve quasi-retired from service, I’ll be spending a quiet evening at home watching a movie with my partner. The real celebration happens on New Year’s Day (as every good Philadelphian knows). I invite a whole mess of people to my house. The price of admission is a bottle of Champagne (growers, not showers, please). We always get into some special stuff. I grabbed a bottle of Lelarge-Pugeot ‘Rosé de Meunier’ that I’m pretty excited to open.” —Jamie Harrison, hospitality consultant, Kids Stuff Hospitality, Philadelphia
“I usually have to work on New Year’s Eve, so I love joining in the celebration in a semi-responsible way with something low-ABV, like a Negroni Sbagliato. I’ll usually veer from the classic, switching out the bitter for an amaro and the sweet vermouth for something a little dryer. Both the bitterness and dryness will help with the inevitable hangover the next morning!” —Vikki Elliot, bar manager, Yellow Door Taqueria, Boston
“Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle, no question. Grand Siècle is the only Cuvée de Prestige based on the blend and not on the vintage — their current Iteration No. 25 is a blend of 2008, 2007, and 2006, and is aged on the lees for 12 years. Always in awe of how this wine drinks like gingerbread, toasted almonds, and silky crust on a challah (the best part!) without the use of any oak.” —Danya Degen, director of wine & operations, The Duck & The Peach, La Collina, and The Wells, Washington, D.C.
“This New Year’s Eve, I plan to drink Champagne, of course. But even in Napa Valley, December gets quite cold, so my Champagne will have to share my attention with a hearty red (or two). Recently, I’ve been loving Schioppettino from Ronchi di Cialla, and I have a stash of old Gemello California Cabernets I might bust into.” —Kelli White, sommelier; author,”Napa Valley, Then & Now;” director of education, Meadowood Napa Valley’s Wine Center, Napa, Calif.
“Honestly, nothing screams New Year’s like a spritz! I am elevating my midnight toast with The Pathfinder Hemp and Root, a couple hits of orange bitters, sploosh of soda, and topped with sparkling wine for a low-ABV treat. You can always swap out an N/A option like Jøyus. It’s simple but hits the spot and is flexible for however your night is going!” —Stef Rider, manager, Liberty Bar, Seattle
“Nothing says New Year’s like bubbles — but a fantastically delicious way to usher yourself into the new year is with N/A or spirit-free options! These are my favorites right now: Leitz-Eins Zwei Zero Sparkling Rosé Non- Alcoholic Wine, Lyre’s RTD cans, Proxies Zephyr.” —Ashley Mac, beverage and service director, Moon Rabbit, Washington, D.C.