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Staying in for New Year’s Eve this year? Or planning a New Year’s Day brunch, regular brunch, or any other party worthy of one awesome celebration? An easy and trendy way to add flair to a party at home is to build a Bubbles Bar. Lay out an eye-catching spread with the right ingredients and let your guests create their own festive libations. It’s actually pretty simple as long as you snag the right ingredients. Here’s what you need:
The Bubbly: Prosecco
Quick lesson for anyone wondering why I chose to use the term “bubble bar” over “champagne bar”: champagne refers specifically to sparkling wine that has undergone a secondary fermentation in the bottle and been created in the Champagne region of France. Because the region is so specific and known for creating the world’s best sparkling wines, even inexpensive champagne can be pretty expensive at around $40-$50 per bottle. Not to mention, the distinctive yeasty, toasty, delicious flavors champagne is known for will be lost when your friends layer it with fruit, other liquors, and whatever other fun stuff you provide.
With that in mind, I suggest you go with something lighter and more economical: prosecco! Italy’s sparkling wine, which is made from the glera grape, is generally delicate and well balanced, perfect for drinking alone or mixing with other flavors for a satisfying sparkling wine cocktail. Plus, you can score quality bottles for between $10 and $15. Perfect!
Zonin Prosecco is my go-to for parties because the flavors are subtle but pleasant with notes of white peach and almond. Plus, the average price of around $14 won’t break the bank. It’s perfectly pleasing alone, but also a nice base for layering flavors in sparkling wine drinks. You can find Zonin Proscecco in Richmond at Wegmans, the Robious Road Total Wine, and some local Krogers including Willow Lawn. If you’re outside Richmond it’s available at all Harris Teeters and most Wegmans. If you’re buying for a party, make sure to check for discounts as some of these stores offer percentages off if you purchase 6 or 12 bottles.
While I do like including plenty of ingredients that make it easy to improvise cocktails, I also suggest including a few specific recipes for guests who might need some inspiration. Sure, you can just print them out, but I decided to make mine festive. In order to have something that stood up, I wrote them on place cards. In addition, while I did place a few jiggers around for fastidious guests who wanted to precisely mix ingredients, I tried to make most recipes fool-proof enough to be created without exact measurements to make the process more relaxed and fun.
I supplied an array of recipes, but these are a few of my favorites:
Tried and True Classic Sparkling Wine Cocktails
A Goodnight Kiss
2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters
Prosecco to fill
1 finger Crème de Cassis (more if you like sweet drinks)
Prosecco to fill
Traditional Champagne Cocktail
1 sugar cube
2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 lemon peel
Prosecco to fill
Marco Style Original Prosecco Cocktails:
Chez Megan (feel free to swap in your name, I won’t tell)
Generous splash Carpano Antica Formula
1 clementine/cutie slice
Bubbles to fill
*This is one of my favorite concoctions and I’ve served it as a welcome drink at parties in the past. Carpano Antica Formula is a full-bodied sweet Italian vermouth with notes of fig, dried cherries, gingerbread and orange peel. You should be able to find it at your local liquor store. It adds a rich spicy note to the sparkling wine, then the orange slice brightens up the mixture. When I serve it myself I add orange peel or muddle the slice a bit to bring out the flavor, but for build-your-own, dropping it in works just fine.
This depends first (of course) on any recipes you choose and secondly on the time of day. For a brunch or daytime gathering you’ll want to focus on juices, lemonades, gourmet sodas, and other choices that won’t make your beverages too boozy. You’ll want to include some of these in the evening as well, but you can also add a few more boozy options.
Favorite choices for any time of day:
Pomegranate Juice: A nice alternative to OJ at brunch, but also a classy mixer in the evening. Also blends quite flavorfully with…
St-Germain: Although it’s a liqueur, with its floral flavors St-Germain makes a lovely addition to brunch or evening drinks as well. Plus, the bottle immediately takes your display up a notch.
Ginger Juice/Ale: This can pep up juice-based bevvies at brunch or add depth to more cocktail-focused evening choices.
For Daytime Bubbles Bars:
Orange Juice: It’s a standard, you have to do it. Go fresh-squeezed to impress your guests.
Pineapple Juice: Quality is key here. Look for a cold-pressed variety in the organic section of the store.
Gourmet Lemonade: You know, the kind in the pretty glass bottles.
Peach or Mango Puree: If you can’t find this in the juice aisle, it’s sometimes also located in the Hispanic or organic section of the grocery store. It’s a necessity for another classic sparkling wine favorite: the bellini.
Sorbet: Replace juice with a scoop of fruit-flavored sorbet for another fun take on a bubbly bevvy.
Evening Bubbles Bars:
Vermouth: This can also work during daytime. Any variety of sweet vermouth plays nice with prosecco. Ask for assistance choosing one in your local wine or liquor store.
Amaro: The Italian word for “bitter,” Amari (the plural of Amaro) are bitter Italian liqueurs. They can be sipped alone before or after a meal, but many are often also served mixed with sparkling wine in spritzes, so I like including one on a sparkling wine bar as well. Common varieties include Campari, Aperol and Cynar. Sparkling wine drinks made with these will please guests who don’t love sweet cocktails.
Bitters: Angostura Bitters is the classic called for in many sparkling wine cocktail recipes, but don’t be afraid to experiment with other varieties. Orange, cherry, and other flavors add another layer of complexity to your drinks.
Crème de Cassis: Another solid brunch option too, this sweet liqueur that’s made from black currants is a key ingredient in the classic French Kir Royale.
Consider investing in matching carafes you can label to make juices look uniform and appealing.
Again, some of this will be determined by any recipes you choose, but my classics include:
– Sugar Cubes
– Fresh fruit (berries, mandarin slices, pomegranate seeds. Make sure anything you choose will actually fit into the glasses you are providing).
– Fruit peels if needed
If you don’t own (or want to wash) a ton of flutes, make sure to check the Dollar Tree when choosing glassware. I was able to purchase high-quality plastic champagne flutes at two for a dollar. The bottoms were secure, they looked pretty, and I was able to throw them away at the end of the night. Total win! You also might look there or at a party store for small bowls to hold your other garnishes. Anything pretty and disposable makes post-party cleanup easier.
Other Fun, Festive Items
I picked up my sparkly star cocktail stirrers at a store-closing sale and my guests went crazy for them. Consider grabbing something like these, festive patterned straws, cocktail picks, or other items to take your display up a notch. Similarly, don’t forget pretty beverage napkins. I also scored my “but first, champagne” sign at Francesca’s on a buy-one-get-one half off sale. I think it adds to the festive look, even if it does say champagne.