Every December, people on the internet start searching for sparkling cocktails as New Year’s Eve approaches. The time feels right to make a French 75 (gin, lemon, sugar, and fizz) or classic Champagne cocktail (fizz, plus a bitters-soaked sugar cube). Maybe it’s about feeling fancy, or maybe the effervescence reminds us all of confetti thrown in jubilation. Or maybe—this year especially—it seems like those bubbles will rise up and kick the old year out the door.
It’s really not that complicated to find your signature sparkling drink. I’m reminded of my colleague Kara Newman’s story in Wine Enthusiast awhile back: “You can now Royale anything,” she wrote. What she means is that you should feel empowered to take (almost) any cocktail you like and add sparkling wine. Apply the Royale treatment, and any drink can be brighter, fizzier—and better for end-of-year celebrations.
While light and lovely sparkling cocktails have their place, the Royale principle means you can make more complex-tasting—and winter-appropriate—sparkling drinks. You can use whisky—even a robust, smoky scotch. You can use spicy elements, or bitter liqueurs.
Which brings me to why you can—and should—Royale your Penicillin.
The Penicillin cocktail is a gingery, honey-sweetened scotch drink that’s so beloved that many folks assume it’s a classic. Gingery whiskey drinks are common these days, but this one has a bit more personality than most, thanks to a mellow blended scotch base and a float of savory, smoky peated whisky. The ginger isn’t shy, giving the drink a warming quality. But the combination didn’t really feel right for New Year’s until I met bartender Fred Yarm’s version in his book, Boston Cocktails: Drunk and Told.
Yarm named The Fleming Fizz in honor of Sir Alexander Fleming, the Scottish scientist who discovered penicillin. As we usher in 2021—a year we hope will be transformed by the advancement of medicine—this drink feels right.
It’s unapologetically brash, bold, and spicy—the ginger makes it apropos for sipping with fruitcake or stollen, gingersnaps or chocolate cookies. It helps you imagine that you have a fireplace roaring at your feet, a snowdrift at your front door.
Start by making a spicy fresh-ginger syrup: Blend chopped, peeled ginger in a blender with a little water, then strain the liquid and sweeten it with an equal amount of honey. (If you’re not a person who likes their ginger bold, feel free to add a little extra water and honey in equal parts—essentially thinning your spicy ginger syrup with plain honey syrup.) Extra syrup is great as a sweetener for cocoa, tea, or a hot toddy, so you’ll be glad to have a little on hand.
To mix the drink, you’ll shake a bit of syrup with blended scotch, fresh lemon, and ice. Then you’ll pour chilled sparkling wine into a flute glass and top with the shaken mix, so that your heavier cocktail combination doesn’t just sit on the bottom of the glass. For the finishing touch, the drink gets a half-teaspoon of Islay Scotch on top—dank smoke that lingers above the ginger warmth. This final step gives the drink a savory edge, a bit of bonfire, and defines it as a drink for scotch-lovers only.
As you sip your way down the Fleming Fizz, the drink evolves, offering more lemon and ginger, a bold, bracing mix of spice and tartness. The ginger is enough to warm your tongue, enough to almost justify to yourself that it’s medicinal. But with each toast, and each sip, the citrus and sparkling wine shine through, a bright light like a brand new year.Fred Yarm
Originally Appeared on Epicurious