Eric Twardzik invites us to follow his own personal tradition of Champagne on Christmas morning, and even offers up a recipe for the decadent Seelbach.
Illustration by John Molesworth.
“Tradition is dying out,” says the pessimist, no doubt fixing his ascot and adjusting his spats mid-harrumph. While our hypothetical naysayer can cite endless evidence for his case, one stubborn exception remains: Christmas.
The holiday teems with traditions, macro and micro. Some aspects, such as church services or a broadcast of It’s A Wonderful Life, are communal in nature, while others are scaled down to the family unit. It may be a certain dessert your aunt makes each year, or perhaps a carol sung annually by a cousin after the appearance of spiked eggnog.
Through childhood, our family followed a Christmas morning script. The day began by unwrapping Santa’s bounty, and proceeded with a visit to our grandparent’s house, where chocolate cake, pumpkin pie, and other year-end indulgences awaited. The shape of the day changed with time, as inconvenient truths regarding St. Nick’s existence came to light and grandparents passed away.
Much like roof shingles and snow tires, family traditions must eventually be replaced. We began spending the entirety of the morning indoors, in pajamas, exchanging gifts that came not from a supernatural North Pole resident but one another. One year my mother pulled a pan of sticky buns from the oven, and their warm reception created an institution that’s been observed each year since.
My own contribution is opening a bottle of Champagne that I would not have purchased under normal circumstances. I am not an expert of sparkling wines, so I pull for Pol Roger on the basis that 1) Churchill enjoyed it, and 2) Christmas morning is not the occasion for Prosecco.
The cork is popped in tandem with the appearance of the sticky buns, and after-breakfast flutes are refilled as we file into the living room to build a fire. What follows is—honestly—nothing. Nothing more than enjoying each other’s company as the fire crackles, glasses clink, and if we’re lucky, snow falls outside.
Toasting Christmas morning with a good Champagne is a tradition worthy of the day, whether you observe the holiday or not, and whether your company is family, friends or roommates. You may want to take advantage of the open bottle and free schedule by dabbling in otherwise impractical Champagne cocktails as morning stretches into afternoon, as I am wont to do.
The easiest to make is the Champagne Cocktail, created by dropping a brown sugar cube into a full flute glass, before adding a few dashes of Angostura bitters and perhaps a lemon peel if you’ve got one. For something a bit more ambitious (in make and ABV), you can spring for the Seelbach, another of those indulgent cocktails named for grand hotels.
Note: some recipes call for the bitters to be stirred with the bourbon and Cointreau. Personally, I think it’s much more fun to float them and watch the drink’s color change.
1 ounce Bourbon
½ ounce Cointreau
7 dashes Angostura Bitters
7 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Orange peel, for garnish.
Add bourbon and Cointreau to a stirring glass filled with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a Champagne flute and fill glass with chilled Champagne. Float bitters and garnish with orange peel, if desired.