The bartenders at Virtu Honest Craft in Scottsdale and Cork in Chandler are mixing up cocktails to accompany your New Year's Eve imbibing. While Kailee Gielgens, Virtu's new head mixologist, takes a more culinary and experimental approach to the her cocktails, Jon Doholis goes for simple pairings that you can either attempt at home or try at Cork. If Gielgens' cocktails intimidate you as a home bartender, just drop in for the special New Year's Eve prix fixe dinner menu with her creations accompanying plates to ring in 2014. Either way, you're sure to start the New Year off with a delicious, bubbly bang with these five drinks.
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The Ice Queen Gielgens' love of making more feminine drinks that are still well-balanced comes from her seeing a lack of both feminine drinks and female bartenders in the mixology community. Her femininity shines through in her Ice Queen cocktail, which combines Reyka vodka, rhubarb liqueur, cane sugar and lemon juice with a strawberry shrub consisting of strawberry juice and white balsamic cream. The champagne comes into play with the generous topping of a champagne and egg white foam, sprinkled with black pepper on top. This very adult take on strawberries and cream is as tasty as it is unique-- just watch out for the inevitable champagne foam-stache that accompanies with cocktail.
How Do You Like Them Apples (or HDYLTM) While some mixologists are all jigger measurements and precision, Doholis utilizes a cook-like hand to his cocktails, eyeballing the ingredients until they measure to his satisfaction. His combination of cava brut, Boulard Calvados apple brandy, simple syrup and Angostura bitters results in a lightly sweet, full-flavored drink with plenty of sparkle. Garnished with a cherry, this drink is something like the Manhattan's festive, wino cousin, though you should really just try it for yourself.
Barrel-Aged French 75 This take on the classic gin and champagne cocktail is in limited supply at Virtu, since it is barrel-aged, so you should grab one before it's gone. If you're feeling daring, you can barrel-age your own with Aviation gin, champagne, simple syrup and citric acid. Since you can't barrel age fresh citrus, the citric acid acts as that flavor component in the aging process. Once you open your barrel, you'll notice your champagne has likely lost its effervescence. If you're like Gielgens, this is when you brake out your handy dandy carbonator and give your cocktail a good shake until it's got its bubbly life back in it. However, if you don't have the right equipment, it might just be easier to enjoy this drink from the pros.
Aperol Sparkler If you're looking for champagne-forward simplicity this New Year's Eve, Doholis' Aperol Sparkler is just your drink. The mix of Argyle brut sparkling wine, Fee Brothers bitters and Aperol may not be rocket science, but once you try it, you'll be kicking yourself for not thinking of it first. While it has obvious ties to a classic Aperol Spritz, the addition of bitters and subtraction of club soda means more champagne and flavor bang for your buck. If you like more sweet, floral flavors, Doholis reccomends substituting the Aperol and bitters for a splash of St. Germain because you really can't go wrong with St. Germain and champagne.
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Bon Vivant's Companion Champagne Cocktail If Gielgens' Ice Queen showcased her femininity, her love of this classic, more masculine champagne cocktail brings balance to her cocktail program for the New Year's Eve dinner. Though this drink is attributed to Jerry Thomas (the bartenders' George Washington, as Gielgens puts it), there are a few variations you can make with it, some with absinthe and some more simple. Gielgens' utilizes Maison Rouge cognac, prosecco, simple syrup and Angostura bitters, with a generous lemon peel spritz. If you're making this drink at home, be sure you're stirring and not shaking, unless you want to be wearing your champagne. Also, try using a sugar cube in place of the simple syrup for a more by-the-book interpretation with a bubbly show.