New Year’s Eve elicits clear visuals: glitter, Times Square, glasses that manufacturers designed forced to fit whatever number the year is, and booze. While popping corks is the traditional way to ring in the new year, booze of all shapes and makes can be found at a good countdown soiree. But is there anything more embarrassing than your host adding your bottle to the pile of the same? Stuart Levine, owner of LeVino Wine Merchants in White Plains, gave us some expert advice on how to kill your boozy darlings and what swaps you should make to be the talk of the town before, during, and after the ball drops.
Instead of Korbel: The gold label of Korbel speckles parties on the 31st en mass. “You can stay in that price range and get much higher quality prosecco from Italy,” says Levine. The Tutela Prosecco is light, crisp, and dry with a touch of fruitiness. “On its own or made into a mimosa, prosecco is one of the world’s great sparkling wines.” $11.99
Instead of Josh Cabernet: We all have given or received a dark bottle with that signature swirly script on it this holiday season. For a special occasion as such, pivot to a unique red. “Seek out a smaller production wine, like the fantastic Iron Side Cabernet Sauvignon, also from California,” says Levine. Inside the bottle you’ll find dark fruit flavors, integrated tannins, and a long finish. And the price point for the quality is a tough one to beat. $16.99
Instead of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is a pretty safe white wine to bring anywhere because even if someone prefers red, it has a universal appeal. “While Oyster Bay is a great wine, the 90+ Lot 2 Sauvignon Blanc, also from Marlborough New Zealand has been my number one best-selling wine in the store overall for more than three years,” says Levine. You keep those same citrus flavors with racy acidity, for less. $11.99
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Instead of Tito’s: Gluten-free and suddenly one of the most popular vodkas on the market, it’s hard to find a place that doesn’t have Tito’s. If you want to try something just as good and semi-local, snag a bottle of 1857 Potato Vodka, made right here in the Hudson Valley by Barber’s Farm Distillery. “This vodka has people coming back for more after they try it. Very smooth and wonderful for mixing or drinking straight,” Levine says. And yes, this drink is gluten-free, too. 375ml bottle $29.99; 750ml bottle $39.99
Instead of Casamigos: Celebrity vodkas have taken off (looking at you, Teremana from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and 818 Tequila by Kendall Jenner). Casamigos is no exception, with George Clooney serving as its celebrity tie. Don’t sacrifice the quality of your tequila just because a celebrity hitched their wagon to it; this season opt for a smaller brand. “One brand called Siempre is delicious [and] smooth, with notes of vanilla coming through, especially on the Plata (blanco),” says Levine. The packaging is stunning (because how else would it look stunning on someone’s bar cart?) and costs considerably less than Casamigos. Female-founded using generations-old agricultural techniques, this drink will make your jaw drop. All 750ml bottles. Plata $39.99; Reposado $46.99; Anejo $68.99
Instead of Wölffer Estate: “The Wölffer Estate rosé is a dry, light rose made in Long Island, New York — or, as Long Islanders will say, ‘made ON Long Island,’” jokes Levine. The “Summer in a Bottle” iteration is impossible to shake from May to August. However, don’t bypass some excellent rosés because you’re still in a summer haze. Levine recommends the Chateau De Berne Inspiration Côtes de Provence rosé from France. “This light, crisp, dry style rosé has won numerous accolades, including many 90-plus ratings and a spot on the Wine Enthusiast Top 100 list,” explains Levine. $23.99
Instead of Jameson: Jameson is one of the the most famous commercially available whiskies. “Irish whiskey, Scotch whisky, bourbon, and all other whiskies are made in a similar manner,” says Levine. “The difference is often the grain used and the production and aging process. Many who are not familiar with whiskey can be surprised by its strong, spicy, alcohol-driven taste.”
Levine suggests a bourbon made in the U.S. as a better alternative for both the novice whiskey drinkers and for those who have a sophisticated palate and who want more nuanced flavors. In many cases, that means the slightest touch of sweetness to offset the harshness of the alcohol. (Bourbon is made with at least 51% corn, which naturally leaves a whisper of sweetness on the spirit.) For a reasonable yet satisfying drink, Levine recommends Golden Moon Gun Fighter Double Barrel Bourbon. Aged in both new oak casks and used port barrels, it has a smoothness and complexity for everyone. 750ml $44.99
LeVino Wine Merchants
171 Mamaroneck Ave.