Why I'll Be Drinking a Margarita Instead of Champagne on New Year's Eve

December 18, 2015

Since 1981, Calvin Trillin has been campaigning to change the "official" dish of Thanksgiving from turkey to spaghetti carbonara. That's his mantle, and this is mine: The "official" drink of New Year's Eve should be margaritas, not Champagne.

Here's why I'll be drinking a margarita when the clock strikes midnight:

Photo by James Ransom

No leftovers.

Champagne—or cava or prosecco or whatever your sparkling wine of choice is—is a little bit of a diva. Once you get the darn cork out of the thing, you have to finish it. I once bemoaned this to one of our editors, Sam, who said, "Yeah, but who doesn't finish a bottle of Champagne?" (Me, Sam. I'm sorry.)

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Leftover Champagne might be less of a problem if you're fêting with a big group rather than a little one—unless, of course, you open multiple bottles at the same time, and then you have a three or four or a half-dozen bottles with a sticky two inches of leftover not-so-bubbly left in them. And then there's the good old "spoon in the bottle" trick, which may or may not work.

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Top Comment:
“maybe I will make a batch and still make the champagne tower. Just put thicker cups with different flavored rims so they can chose and serve themselves. You had me in the beginning. And I want nachos and ceviche and maybe finger sandwhiches. its easy to clean and they can serve themselves. It's like enough for my small crowd ”
— kimikoftokyo

With margaritas, you can make as many or as few as you want—in a pitcher, in a single glass, in a double glass. You're the boss. And if you want to make a batch of them, you can prep your New Year's Eve cocktail on New Year's Eve Eve—or at least the morning of. Or, save the work of juicing limes until your party guests arrive. Everyone will be grateful to have something to keep their hands busy (what are you supposed to do on New Year's Eve?) and you'll have enough lime juice to last you the evening.

This sturdy glass will survive an overnight in the sink without shattering spontaneously! Photo by James Ransom

Champagne is fussy, margaritas are not.

Good Champagne is expensive. Good tequila is also expensive, but it won't go flat overnight (see above). Use New Year's Eve as an occasion to treat yourself to a bottle of the top-shelf stuff.

And then there's the Champagne flute, an extremely beautiful and incredibly delicate, fingerprint-prone piece of glassware. The last thing I want to be doing is handling them while slightly tipsy, or washing them, slightly slumped and woozy over the kitchen sink, the next morning. (The margarita, for the record, can be served in whatever vessel you like, though neither drink is the same from a plastic cup. Hey! It's New Year's! If there's any occasion to be festive and go for the real glasses, this is it.)

Photo by Bobbi Lin

They are delicious.

Which is not to say that Champagne is not. But with margaritas, you not only get the satisfaction of making one to your exact standards (spicy? grapefruity? pineapple-y? extra salty? smoky?); you also get the salty-sweet-burn of the lime juice, the tequila, the citrus, the triple sec—and the satisfying bump of ice against your lips while you drink it.

If you want to get really English-major with me, we could say that a marg is perfectly symbolic of the year—both bitter and sweet, occasionally a little painful, often surprisingly zingy.

No caviar in sight. Photo by James Ransom

Snack options abound.

I want 2015 to go out on tacos and guacamole and nachos. (Which pair very well with a you-know-what.) Don't you?

Am I sorely mistaken? Make the case for Champagne—or another deserving beverage—in the comments.

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Paul G. January 1, 2016
Here in El Barrio we just mix tequila & Squirt (about half & half) over ice in a highball glass or half pint mason jar, then add a sprinkle of salt from the shaker. Delicioso!
William M. December 29, 2015
Champagne, always for New Years eve, Christmas, my birthday, my boyfriends birthday etc, you get the picture. Champagne surpasses everything else fr New Years eve, but hey, if you like Tequila, Bourbon or whatever, be sure to splurge on the good stuff, at least for the beginning of the New Year!
Ann December 28, 2015
Though a 'Rita lover, nothing says New Year's like Champagne. It looks so lively in a glass and really says, "Let's Celebrate!"
kantcould December 28, 2015
For my money, the French 75 (“Soixante Quinze”) is the drink for New Year's – preferably the brandy version over the gin. How much more elegant can you get than a nice champagne fortified with a vintage brandy. As for leftover champagne, did you ever hear of a “demi bouteille”?
Cory C. December 28, 2015
I'm with you. Don't care a lot for champagne for two, but we do love us some margaritas! I agree with the Cointreau. Happy New Year!
James E. December 28, 2015
Champagne fussy? Really? You open a bottle and drink it - that's it! That's not fussy.
Dayna W. December 28, 2015
You had me until the Cointreau and agave. Blech. Hornitos, Patron Citronage, with fresh lime and lemon juice. Make up a batch and then prep individual servings in the martini shaker. Pour into a frost glass--salt is optional. These are the best margs ever! Recipe:
james M. December 28, 2015
There are easily applied champagne stoppers.
kimikoftokyo December 28, 2015
Yes!! maybe I will make a batch and still make the champagne tower. Just put thicker cups with different flavored rims so they can chose and serve themselves. You had me in the beginning. And I want nachos and ceviche and maybe finger sandwhiches. its easy to clean and they can serve themselves. It's like enough for my small crowd
Jan J. December 28, 2015
I can't tolerate Agave syrup (sadly) and am not a fan of the Cointreau margarita. I make what I call a poor man's margarita but it gets rave reviews every time. I like Hornitos tequila best and put about 2 oz in a glass. Add two juiced KEY limes (the usual persian limes in the store just aren't the same). Then I add frozen limeaid concentrate to taste and fill the glass with water. Some people like it sweeter and some more sour. You can do it either way, very easily with this method. It tastes much better than any of the pre-mixed items you find at the store and you can play around with it to get it just right, without much trouble. Feliz Ano Nuevo!
Talia R. December 28, 2015
You tell 'em, lady! I, for one, am going to attempt the champagne jello shots that have intimidated me for years. 2016 BRING IT ON.
Westcoasty December 28, 2015
Okay, I confess - while I see nothing wrong with margaritas for NYE, I loathe tequila and adore a dry sparkling wine, even if it's not true champagne. I love the elegance of the flute, the bubbles fizzing in my mouth, the celebratory feel. For double decadence, I sip some fizz in a deep bubble bath while getting glammed up. But to each their own!
Liesel B. December 21, 2015
Liesel B. December 21, 2015
One need not choose one or the other ? ??
Lauren N. December 21, 2015
I'll be having a margarita instead of champagne as well this NYE... because I'll be in MEXICO! Awesome read.
Layne T. December 21, 2015
Can certainly agree and see your point however, would have liked to see your favorite 'Rita recipe included in the post.
Caroline L. December 21, 2015
Thank you, Layne! This is my favorite recipe—and I've also updated the article to include it. Happy New Year!
ellen M. December 21, 2015
I'm convinced!!!
Larry H. December 19, 2015
Viva la Revolucion !
Holly R. December 19, 2015
I am so on board with this. Starting top shelf tequila for new years tradition immediately.
deb O. December 20, 2015
I use 1800 silver for mine.... I like the taste better than Patron. One of these days I will explore others....
Abby December 27, 2015
I'd recommend Riazul Tequila...the reposado is excellent in a margarita, but all three (blanco, repo and anejo) are incredible!
terri December 19, 2015
I agree margarita or a nice moscow mule ... had a great one at Eureka in Palm Desert. They make their own ginger lime syrup .. absolutely delicious ... Cheers to no bubbly and the nacho's too