Champagne and other sparkling wines have become ubiquitous with New Year’s Eve, and all of the posts leading up to the new year will use that amazing ingredient. Sparkling wine is not a well known cocktail ingredient, however it can be used to make marvelous new cocktails or put a surprising twist on classics. One such classic is the mojito, which evolves into a wonderfully sparkling cocktail, the Old Cuban.
The Old Cuban
- 1.5 oz. Rum
- 1 oz. simple syrup
- ¾ oz. fresh lime juice
- 6 mint leaves
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 2 oz. chilled champagne or dry sparkling wine
- (optional) garnish with a mint sprig or lime twist
Begin by muddling the mint leaves with the fresh lime juice in the bottom of a shaker. Once muddled, add a generous portion of ice and add the simple syrup, rum, and bitters. Shake until fully chilled. Strain the cocktail into a glass, and instead of using club soda, you are going to top it off with just 2 oz of chilled champagne or you favorite cheaper alternative, sparkling wine. Garnish with a mint sprig or lime twist. This cocktail, in addition to being beautiful, is incredibly smooth and delicious. It is quite easy to drink a couple of these before you know what is happening, but it packs a surprising punch, so they might be worth counting. But it’s New Years Eve! So forget about it!
The Old Cuban was invented by Audrey Saunders, the talented owner-bartender of the famed Pegu Club in New York. It was designed as an upscale variation on the classic mojito, and the blend of rum and champagne makes this drink just as amazing and refreshing in the summer as it will be on December 31st. The Old Cuban got a bit more publicity recently, when it was proclaimed by Playboy Magazine as “The Only Champagne Cocktail Worth Drinking on New Year’s Eve.”
The Old Cuban is a truly versatile cocktail. By tweaking a little bit more, you can customize it for just about anyone and any palate. A fan of spirit heavy drinks? Double the amount of rum! Absolutely love minty drinks? You can put an additional twist on the Old Cuban by using mint bitters instead of Angostura bitters–it will also make the cocktail a light emerald color. Only like mint in moderation? You can decrease the mistiness by only using three mint leaves when you make the cocktail. Really like bubbles and fizzy drinks? Add a bit more champagne.
Now to the only sticking point of this cocktail, and almost all new years cocktails: the price. Champagne isn’t cheap. With quality, comes a very expensive cocktail. One thing that is important to remember when making champagne cocktails, is that you aren’t going to be using a standard pour of champagne to make each cocktail. While there only about six flutes of champagne in each bottle, you will be able to make that stretch to 12-18 cocktails depending on how generously you pour. This brings the price per drink down significantly, and makes this celebratory cocktail reasonably priced even using good champagne. In addition, because it is a cocktail adding a lot of its own flavor, you can easily get away with using cheaper sparkling wines, even including that great “California champagne” Andre. At $4-6 dollars per bottle, it drops the price point into the everyday cocktail range.
Total cost per drink? ~$1.23 –> $5.93