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

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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.)

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.

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!
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.
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?

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Serves 2
  • 4 ounces tequila
  • 2 ounces Cointreau
  • 2 ounces fresh-squeezed lime juice (plus spent lime rind)
  • 1/2 ounce agave syrup
  • Ice
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Additional lime wedges (for garnish)

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

Tags: margaritas, champagne