How Champagne Became the Unofficial Drink of New Year’s Eve

There's a reason we break out the bubbly to ring in the new year.

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December 31 and bubbly drinks go hand in hand. Even as a child, I was trained for the ritual when my parents would serve up Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider in plastic champagne flutes. When I was finally able to try the real stuff, I got what all the hype was about, so much so that I wondered why we don’t just drink champagne all the time. What is it about this drink that relegates it to celebratory moments like ushering in the new year?

A brief history of the New Year’s Eve champagne toast

Before we even get to the sparkling wine component, we must remember that we have Julius Caesar to thank for the timing of the New Year as we know it today. Back in 45 B.C. he introduced the month of January to the Roman calendar, according to History.com, making January 1 the new start of a new year. Shortly after the declaration, Caesar was assassinated but the recognition of New Year’s Eve and Day lived on.

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It wasn’t until the 1800s that the tradition of staying up until midnight to bring in the new year became common practice, Imbibe Magazine reports, and part of that tradition involved going from house to house to share drinks with neighbors. Around that same time, champagne, which was created due to a bottling mishap that caused the yeast in a batch of French wine to fizz, was being rebranded as a drink for nobles and royals. When the drink started being bottled and sold to the masses in the 1880s, it was marketed as an aspirational beverage. Most non-nobles could only afford champagne on special occasions, and chose New Year’s Eve as the night to get it to manifest riches and fulfilled aspirations in the year to come.

According to Insider, the pop of the cork was another draw. While early New Year’s Eve celebrations ended with the chiming of church bells, as society moved into more secularized celebrations, things like noisemakers and fireworks replaced the tolling bells. The champagne cork pop and subsequent drinking of the contents of the bottle became another way to move the holiday away from its religious associations to the debaucherous night it has since become.

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In the present day, when champagne and other sparkling wines are much easier to come by at different price points, the flowing bubbles on New Year’s Eve represent abundance and joy to kick off the new year on a positive note. And while the drink’s connection to these celebratory moments remains, remember that there’s nothing wrong with keeping that abundance and joy going by drinking champagne all year long.