Champagne poured over hibiscus-allspice syrup and Calvados, the French apple brandy. See the Notes section at the bottom for details on the Mexican piloncillo sugar and cinnamon I rimmed the glasses with, as well as possible substitutions.
Makes 12 cocktails
1/2 cup white sugar
About 10 dried hibiscus blossoms
1 tablespoon allspice berries (whole allspice)
6 ounces Calvados (divided)
2 bottles cold Champagne, Prosecco or sparkling wine
For the rims of the champagne flutes:
Juice from half a lime
1. Make the hibscus-allspice syrup:
Whisk the white sugar with 1/2 cup cold water in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar completely melts into the water.
Stir the hibiscus blossoms and allspice berries into the sugar syrup and bring to a brief simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and steep for 20-30 minutes, partially covered. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Store in a covered container with the solids remaining in the syrup for up to 3 days. (If you’re storing longer, strain out the solids.)
2. Prep the piloncillo-cinnamon for the rims:
Before you start serving drinks, set up your bar so you can garnish the rim of each glass before you serve. Squeeze the lime juice onto a small plate or very shallow bowl. Whisk the piloncillo and cinnamon together until well combined, then put the mixture in a separate small plate or shallow bowl.
3. Make the drinks:
Before making a drink, invert the champagne flute and dip the rim briefly in the lime juice to lightly wet it, then nestle the rim briefly in the piloncillo-cinnamon mixture before set the glass right-side-up again.
Drizzle about 1 teaspoon of hibiscus-allspice syrup into the bottom of each glass, followed by 1/2 ounce of Calvados. Then, fill the glass with Champagne and serve.
If you and I were in the same room right now instead of on the internet (hi there!), I would make this drink for you. Right now. And you would LOVE it (everyone does!).
And you would have so many questions:
What’s in the syrup? (Hibiscus blossoms and allspice berries.) What else did you pour in there? (Calvados.) What’s on the rim? (Mexican piloncillo and Ceylon cinnamon.)
And I would tell you I created this recipe for New Year’s Eve and included lots of seasonal, warming, tasty things in there, just for the occasion. The Champagne makes it sparkly (and festive!). The hibiscus makes it colorful (and more festive!). The allspice brings a jazzy, warming counter-note of depth to the otherwise simple sweet-tartness of the syrup (seasonal! and special!). The Calvados (French apple brandy) gives it a bit of complexity and more seasonality (fancy! and French!).
And then there’s that piloncillo-cinnamon rim. Depending on your mood, you might initially hesitate. You might be on some sort of puritanical anti-sugar kick, who knows? But I’m very persuasive, so eventually you’d give in (oh, pshaw!) and you’d be so glad you did. “Oh, it’s actually not that sweet,” you’d say. (Of course not!) “Wow, it actually goes perfect with the drink,” you’d say. (Of course it does!)
To make this drink, I actually just grabbed a jar of our Mexican Sweet Blend off the shelf and used that for the rims. It’s a spoonable, crumbly combination of Mexican piloncillo sugar and Ceylon cinnamon, mixed together and ready to go for exactly this type of occasion. (Easy peasy!)
Piloncillo is a brown Mexican sugar made from unrefined cane juice that’s been poured into a cone-shaped mold to harden. Because it’s unrefined, it’s got a more complex flavor than white sugar, and registers as much less sweet on the palate. The flavor is vaguely rum-like, slightly fruity with a hint of something like smokiness. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a cone of piloncillo to make this drink, just use a cheese grater to grate off the amount you need.
I’ve also called for Ceylon cinnamon here (as opposed to the cassia cinnamon we all grew up with in the US) because it goes so perfectly with the piloncillo.
But of course, since you don’t operate your own spice shop like I do (bummer!), you might not have these ingredients lying around your kitchen. And since we’re on the internet and not in the same room together (boo!) I can’t just hand them to you. You can probably get them from your local Latin American grocery, and definitely from the Adventure Kitchen shop, but that doesn’t really really help you make this drink right NOW, does it?
So if you need to substitute with something you might actually have in your kitchen today, you could try a combination of raw (turbinado) sugar and whatever ground cinnamon you have on hand. It won’t be quite the same, but you may be in the ballpark. I would think standard American brown sugar might be too sweet, and white sugar definitely would be. And I think your drink will still be lovely.
You can (and should!) make the syrup ahead. You can store it in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze it indefinitely. Just strain out the solids if you plan to keep it for more than 2-3 days. Then when it’s party time, you’ll have everything you need at the ready.
So cheers, friend! Here’s to your Happy New Year or Happy Valentine’s Day or Merry Christmas or Happy Kwanzaa or Happy Birthday or Happy Hanukkah or Your Recent Engagement or Happy Anniversary or New (and well-deserved!) Promotion!
A sweet blend of Mexican flavors: piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar) and canela (Mexican cinnamon). Bake with it, sprinkle it over fruit, stir it into coffee or hot chocolate, or combine it with savory spices for a barbecue rub.
Common in Latin American, Caribbean and Middle Eastern and Persian cuisines. Steep with spices for tea or use to make a dessert sauce. Steep with savory ingredients to make a sauce for chicken, lamb or shrimp.
1/2 cup-sized jar.