Born in France, the Moulin Rouge Champagne cocktail is the grande dame ancestor to a modern-day libation that’s appreciated by tragically hip Londoners like Ab Fab characters Edina and Patsy. However, their brand-conscious natures dictated that they nickname it “Bolly-Stolly” for the top-shelf ingredients – Bollinger and Stolichnaya – used in their version of the recipe.
The romance between Russia and France has a long and passionate history. It began when Czar Peter the Great had his agent place an order for Champagne mousseux shortly after he decreed on December 20, 1699, that January First - Christian New Year’s Day – would be celebrated throughout the Russian Empire, despite the objections raised by his Judiac, Islamic, Buddhist, and pagan subjects. The relationship deepened when Madame Clicquot smuggled casks of her vintage 1811 Comet rose’ Champagne to Czarina Maria Feodorovna – wife of Czar Alexander I – who wanted a special drink to celebrate her husband’s return from the battlefront (and despite Napoleon Bonaparte’s embargo on exports to eastern Europe). This tete-a-tete continued when royal refugees from Czar Nicholas II’s court toasted their escape from ravages of the Russian Revolution in 1917 by fleeing to Paris – their emotional home away from home – and consuming large quantities of Champagne.
However, the turn of a new year is still one of the best reasons to eat, drink, and be merry. One of the oldest documented New Year’s fests in the western hemisphere took place in Babylon around 2000 BC. Honoring the chief god, Marduk, the feast was held during the spring equinox (March 20 or 21), which people of the time believed marked the annual transition of time itself. They also started the tradition of making resolutions about their behavior and actions during the next year (though party hats and horns came much later).
Blame Roman emperor Julias Caesar for establishing New Year’s Day on January first around 46 BC. In keeping with his deified ego, the emperor devised his own calendar, dedicating each month to a specific god. He chose the gatekeeper of heaven and hell – Janus – as the guardian of the Julian calendar’s first month. He even dictated that all Romans should celebrate before the temple of Janus on the first day of his new, improved Julian Year.
Not everyone celebrates the turn of the calendrical cycle on January first despite Julias Caesar’s attempt to unite the entire world under Roman Rule. The Judaic calendar continues to view Tishri (the seventh lunar month after the spring equinox) as the start of the new year. In many parts of India, the populace just can’t get enough of New Year’s festivities, celebrating varusha pirappu (the birth of the New year) on April 14 and diwali(a festival of lights dedicated to Lakshimi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity) during the tenth lunar month. Since 1699, the Sikhs of the north Punjab have celebrated the birth of their sect on April 14, by taking a ceremonial “new year” bath before sunrise. The Chinese continue to commemorate their New Year on the second new moon after the winter solstice (December 22), just as they have for over five thousand years.
It doesn’t really matter where you spend New Year’s Eve or with how many people, just as long as you know how to celebrate it. Put on your party clothes (there’s no such thing as being overdressed on New Year’s Eve), pour yourself a Champagne cocktail, and salute the end of the old year while you welcome in the new.
MOULIN ROUGE CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL RECIPE
1 oz. Vodka
4 oz. Champagne
Pour the vodka into a Champagne flute. Then slowly pour in the Champagne. Garnish with an orange twist if desired.
Bolly-Stolly Champagne Recipe
The Absolutely Fabulous version – Bolly-Stolly – is simple, but delicious. Pour 1 oz. Stolichnaya vodka in a Champagne flute, then gradually add 4 oz. Bollinger Champagne.
This drink and recipe is dedicated to an old friend of mine, Janein. For believing for so many years that we actually created this recipe on a drunk fun night. Turns out, we can no longer call this drink “The Silver Bullet”, as we named it. There are many bartendars out there that believed us, as they asked, what’s in it?