Femme de Coupe's Lady New Year punch
Femme de Coupe’s Lady New Year punch

Some people treat New Year’s Eve as the party of parties, a no-brainer occasion for a blowout night on the town. (If that’s you, skip to the end of this post.) Other people, like me, prefer to bypass the cab wars and ring in the year with friends at a house party.

For this year’s at-home soirée, I asked three Chicago cocktail experts for recipes that take midnight toasts beyond the bubbly. The parameters? Festive, simple, and great for groups.

Seine 75 from Paul McGee, head bartender at The Whistler in Logan Square

“This drink is easy to make, and if you happen to spill it during your midnight kiss, it’s light—you won’t ruin your dress,” McGee says. “Making a cocktail with champagne is a great way to add seasonal flavors and get a bigger kick out of your bubbles.”

Mix It: 1 ½ oz. Calvados, ½ oz. fresh lemon juice, ½ oz. simple syrup (one part water to one part sugar). Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a champagne flute. Top with one ounce chilled champagne.

La Vie en Rose from Craig Cooper, beverage director at Pops for Champagne in River North

“This drink is simple to make in large quantities—and quickly,” Cooper says.

Mix It: Place a single sugar cube in a large champagne flute. Soak the cube with a few healthy dashes of Peychaud’s bitters. Add ½ oz. (1 oz. for a sweeter cocktail) of chilled Chase elderflower liqueur (St. Germain may be substituted). Fill the remainder of the flute with a quality Brut champagne. Garnish with an orchid petal or any other edible flower.

Lady New Year punch from Revae Schneider of Femme du Coupe, a ‘bar styling’ consulting company focused on craft cocktails and bar concepts for at-home and professional use

“This punch serves roughly 20 to 30 people, depending on glass size,” Schneider says. “For a holiday party, making a punch and letting guests serve themselves is the easiest bartending trick. A big punch bowl looks beautiful and inviting, and it allows the host to mingle without getting stuck behind the bar.”

Mix It: One liter of Bombay Sapphire gin, half a bottle of St. Germain, two cups Hawaiian green tea (find it at Tea Gschwendner), one and a half cups fresh lemon juice, one and a half cups simple syrup (bring one part water and one part sugar to a boil until combined and completely dissolved), 16 droppers of Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters. Top with champagne or sparkling wine; add ice and flower petals (rose petals are easiest).

Can’t resist the temptation to go out? These three parties are on my radar:

  • Highest Glam Quotient: The Hard Rock Hotel’s ‘A Starry New Year’s Eve’ bash features music by celebrity DJ Chris Masterson and Chicago’s own Gold Coast All Stars—truly the best cover band I’ve heard in a while. Tickets are $160 (includes open bar, hors d’oeuvres, and midnight toast), and rumored special guests include American Idol’s Lee DeWyze and OAR’s Chris Culos. VIP tables are still available and range from $1,000 for four people to $5,000 for 20 (e-mail jamie@ylcommunications.com).
  • Casual South Loop Option: The recently opened bar The Scout offers a relatively affordable $75 for an open bar from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m, party favors, passed hors d’oeuvres, and a midnight toast.
  • 2012, Reality Show Version: Rob Kardashian will count down to 2012 at the ‘Everyone’s Famous’ party at the River North nightclub Enclave, where The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Taylor Armstrong will greet guests on the red carpet. The $95 ticket includes specialty cocktails, swag bags, and hors d’oeuvres.


Photograph: Eric Benjamin Kleinberg