I'm a firm believer that almost any party — not to mention almost any brunch — can be improved by serving sparkling wine.
That's why when I started planning this year's New Year's Day brunch, I didn't start my planning with the food; I started with a signature drink. My friends and I usually don't go crazy on New Year's Eve, so by the next morning we're still happy to have a little libation. A refreshing and light cocktail seemed about right.
I started thinking about iconic cocktails and settled on the Bellini. It's a simple drink created in Italy using white peaches, prosecco and (sometimes) a little cherry juice. But I decided to remake this classic summer cocktail with a winter fruit.
These days, most fruits — and fruit juices — are available all year, but I wanted a fruit that was harvested in sunny Florida in December. I settled on passion fruit because similar to white peaches it is both delicate and intensely aromatic.
While you could make this drink in January with peach nectar or frozen peaches, passion fruit pulp is an unexpected and delightful change. And in keeping with the Italian tradition of a little cherry juice, I decided to try the Italian (Luxardo) maraschino liqueur. I loved it. It was a little less sweet than other cherry liqueurs and set off the tartness of the passion fruit perfectly. Here's to 2015! Cheers!
PASSION FRUIT BELLINI
Passion fruit pulp can be found in the frozen foods section, often with the Goya brand products.
Start to finish: 5 minutes
1 cup unsweetened passion fruit pulp, thawed
2 tablespoons maraschino liqueur
750-mililitre bottle prosecco, chilled
Maraschino cherries or fresh raspberries, to garnish
In a large cocktail shaker, combine the passion fruit pulp and maraschino liqueur. Stir to combine. Add a handful of ice, then shake vigorously for 20 seconds. Strain into the wine glasses, dividing it evenly. Stir each glass gently, then top each with Prosecco. Add a cherry or raspberry to each glass. Serve immediately.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pitmaster at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and author of three books, including "Taming the Flame."