The Art of New Year’s Eve Excess

The Art of Drinking on New Years Eve

First let’s begin from the premise that New Year’s Eve is, or at least has become, an accepted excuse to indulge.

Now, let’s change the traditional understanding of the idea of "indulging" from meaning excessive consumption of drink and make it mean excessive consumption of good drink.

This change is meaning is important because it’s necessary to justify opening absurd amounts of very good wines and spirits and also assumes a certain degree of soberness. The soberness is important under this understanding of excessive because without out a certain degree of soberness we can neither appreciate nor think about the absurd amounts of good wine and spirit that we will be consuming.

So, first things first: The Cocktail. Every good evening begins with a fine cocktail, well prepared. The proper cocktail, I think, must be a Manhattan. While Maker’s Mark is a great everyday bourbon for Manhattan making and can be used in a pinch on this day of excessive consumption, you should instead reach for the Bookers.

From the cocktail it’s time to move to a fine Champagne. This should be a good one. And it should be served with a very light nibble. This would be the time to open the vintage Champagne. We are still completely sober, our palate is stimulated by the Manhattan and we are ready to indulge. 1989 or 1990 would be perfect. Pay for the good stuff. This is the sparkler you will remember tomorrow.

Upon consuming your vintage Champagne you are now ready to move to the great still white wines. This should occur with your first course. Now is the time at least three whites ought be opened and on the table. Make them a well aged White Burgundy, a middle aged Chablis and something disturbingly full and buttery from California. Remember, it’s about excess…excess experience. A great Condrieu would be a fine addition. Remember, start with half a glass each, running through them all. Then, choose the one most satisfying and attack the oysters you have ordered.

The second course should be a dish that can be paired with a light red such as Pinot Noir or even a rose. I can’t seem to move my mind away from the idea of a well spiced salmon tartar to accompany your earthy, funky red burgundy. No matter what you choose remember…it’s about excess. Have at least 4 different examples of these light reds on the table.


You must have some. It must be seared so that the outside is just south of crispy while the inside remains between pink and red. We will be drinking a 15 to 20 year old Sauternes. for the squeamish among you, have them bring a small wedge of blue cheese, preferably a Gorgonzola Cremifacato, Stilton or a Blue d’Auvergne.

Here’s where it gets silly. To truly be excessive you must have a ridiculous selection of fine reds to accompany whatever meat course you choose. The meat really doesn’t matter. It’s only there to hide the fact that it’s really all about the wine. You’ll be needing a well aged Bordeaux, an ungodly dense Australian Shiraz, a 1986 California Cabernet, a red blend from Washington State, something older and gamy from Spain’s Rioja, and an Italian red, probably something like a ’97 Solaia. This might be the time to pull out that big, fat American Pinot you’ve been carefully keeping in your closet. The red course is also when you pull from your Rhone collection.

By now you’ve sampled upwards of 15 wines and had a cocktail to boot and you are just beginning. Remember, the idea is not to get drunk, but to consume excessively. That means you are not drinking full glasses of any wine. It mans the water is flowing at the table. It means you are seated in the best seat in the restaurant that is also near the restroom and it means you are eating all the time. However, remember, do not eat excessively. If you do, it will make it difficult to continue consuming many numbers of wines.

The cheese course is your opportunity to be silly and pull out any and ever kind of wine you want. This also means that the cheese must be several varieties. You’ll need a bloomy rind cows cheese, a semi hard probably of Swiss origin, something stinky and soft from Northern Italy, Chevre will be necessary, a lovely blue should be there on the plate, and of course you’ll need a wedge of Constant Bliss from Jasper Hill Farms that has been cut only moments ago.

This is the moment to dig down there to the bottom of your rack and pull out those stickies and sweet things you’ve not found a time to open previously. If possible try to stay away from the excessively sticky and unctuous wines. You’ll be looking to open the Beerenauslese, the old Madeira, the 1963 or 1970 Vintage Port, a Quarts de Chaume from the Loire and an old Tokay from Australia.

By now you are feeling the effects of your excessiveness and it’s time to retreat to a place of comfort. Ideally this should be to the home of a friend, but a quite corner in dark room with excellent jazz will do also. Now we must start in on our spirits and liqueurs. Alternatively this is a good time to return to Champagne and sparkling wine, but not the best. Cognac, Armagnac, Single Malt are all appropriate now. It’s time to reflect on your excessiveness. Time to review the ridiculous amounts of wine you’ve opened that previous to this night have been sitting in your cellar because you could not find just the right time to drink them. It’s time to reflect on the year just past and the year to come. This can really only be done well with close friends and a fine after dinner drink close at hand. Cigars and cigarettes are appropriate now also.

The art of New Year’s Eve drinking is not a casual one. It should be approached with some preparation. But most of all, it must be excessive without drunkeness. This is a very fine line. I don’t recommend it to those who have not previously attempted it in more limited circumstances or who have not learned to do it from more experienced types.



7 Responses

  1. Marco - December 31, 2007

    “Excessive but not drunk” is a good tactic for an important night like tonight. I will undoubtedly be excessively not drunk and that’s without the cocktail, white wine, cognac or cigar. Happy New Year!

  2. Dr. Debs - January 1, 2008

    Happy 2008, Tom! No excess here, just two glasses of wine, I’m happy to report.

  3. Dan Cochran - January 1, 2008

    Hello, Tom. I ended up with four drinks in total, but I spaced them over the five hours of my buddy’s party. First, I had a pair of local beers (Lord Chesterfield Ale, Yuengling Traditional Lager). Then I had a shot of a Hungarian cherry brandy with a name that escapes me now. Finally, my pal opened a bottle of Spumante right before the ball dropped. I had plenty of munchies as well.

  4. Jeff Cleveland - January 1, 2008

    Tom, If you need guests for your party next year, I’ll gladly add my name to the list. Sounds like an amazing time.

  5. el jefe - January 2, 2008

    hi Tom – you hit the proverbial nail on the proverbial head. We should party together some year. Happy ’08!

  6. Mary B. - January 3, 2008

    Thanks, Tom! The best New Year’s advice I’ve ever heard. I have just written my first post of 2008–a New Year’s Eve (2008) greeting, with a link back to this post!!
    Cheers to everyone,

  7. winehiker - January 3, 2008

    Tom, yours is an excessively fun post. I’m drunk with amusement! Happy ’08 to you, too.

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