What they say: "We brought you a bottle of Champagne*!"
What you secretly wish you could say: "How did you know? We're having a New Year's Eve party for 50 people and we didn't think about buying any sparkling wine at all, so your $4 bottle of Andre from the c-store on the corner has really saved the day! But never mind, come on in and drink the $40 a bottle tequila we brought back from Mexico.."
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What you actually say: "Oh, thank you! We can always use it. Come in, have a drink."
So now what do you do? You don't want to drink it, because it's c-store plonk. You can't re-gift it, because then people will think you have a wooden palate. You feel bad just throwing it out, and equally bad opening it and setting it on the table, where it will sit lonely and ignored until it goes flat(ter) and you end up pouring it down the drain.
Here, then, are a few suggestions on what to do with it, which work just as well with leftovers of the good stuff the next day.
1. Mimosas. You didn't really need us to tell you this suggestion. The official unofficial hair o' the dog on New Year's Day is Champagne mixed with orange juice, and while Cristal with the freshly-squeezed juice of organic, local clementines may be the gold standard, it's much more likely that you'll mix the carton o' juice with whatever's leftover. If it's bad wine, just add more juice.
2. Mulled wine. Nobody is going to notice that you used cheap Champagne when it's mixed with red wine (which can also be the cheap gift bottle), apple juice and Martinelli's. This was last week's recipe and you can find it here; mulling spices are available everywhere and are also a very common gift given to people who are known to love food.
3. Champagne vinaigrette. Whip some of the wine together with a spoonful of Dijon mustard, minced shallot, salt, pepper and maybe a little bit of sugar or honey to take the bite off the mustard. Serve it with fruit (pears, Asian pears and strawberries are all in season) or add a little bit of chopped tarragon and serve it on a nice light salad as atonement for the overindulgences of the past month.
4. Risotto. Traditionally, the Italian rice dish starts with sautéeing arborio or a similar rice in fat, then adding a big splash of white wine. Use the leftovers from last night's bottle instead, even if it's flat. Fold in a big bold flavor at the end (like porcini mushrooms or seafood) so you won't notice the acrid bite of bad Champagne as much. You could also make arancini, risotto balls stuffed with cheese or ragù, rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Nobody's going to notice Andre in something that's been deep-fried.
5. Melon soup. The big problem with most crappy Champagne is that it's far, far too sweet. If you purée it with something that's already sweet such as melon, it lessens the horror. If the Champagne is truly heinous, consider adding some chile heat to the soup in the form of minced serranos. Put some melon in a blender and add plonk until it resembles soup; add some chopped melon for texture and some mint or tarragon for flavor, and serve it to the folks who spent the night on the couch.
Bonne année! Enjoy your revelry, enjoy the company, and remember, a $50 taxi ride is a lot cheaper than a DUI.
* A few words to French people reading this and bristling at the use of the term "Champagne" to represent sparkling wine not from Champagne: je m'en fous.