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new years eve

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What the Heck is Hogmanay?

December 26, 2015

Single Malts of Scotland Tasting Map

When you think New Year’s Eve celebrations, you might think of mobs in Times Square. But December 31st is a big night in Scotland too. There, it’s traditionally known as Hogmanay, a possible corruption of the French au guis menez (“to the mistletoe,” suggesting a Druidic origin). But whatever its name or origins, the celebration is essentially the same to this day—drinking toasts to the old year, counting down to the new, and tying on a few more after midnight. But a wonderful part of Scottish Hogmanay called “First Footing” is less common. In this ritual, the first person to put their foot across a threshold has the honor of bringing good fortune to the whole household. Sometimes, this metaphor for stepping through the door of a new year was accompanied by a handsel, a gift of a lump of coal or a bottle of whisky to symbolize the many gifts of the coming year. Warmth…whisky…who needs a Christmas sweater?

Discover more holiday lore in our Twelve Uncommon Facts About the Holidays post.

Single Malts of Scotland Tasting Map | $30

The Uncommon Life

Marie Antoinette, Grace Kelly and the History of the New Year’s Toast

December 30, 2011

(source ChampagnePascal Vuylsteker)

In a couple days we will gather with and count down the New Year. Whether you are watching the ball drop from your television or in the center of Times Square, there most likely will be a glass of champagne in your hand. I was curious as to why we choose champagne for toasts on momentous occasions like weddings, birthdays and holidays and found out some pretty interesting knowledge.

(source NotCot)

For the longest time, champagne was mostly drunk by men who were attracted by the unofficial endorsement of royal and noble men. Men of all classes and statures flocked to the bubbly on a regular basis, but in the early 19th Century champagne manufacturers thought it was time to start appealing to women. In order to get the attention of ladies, bottles were designed with labels depicting beautiful scenes that like romantic dates, weddings and christenings (not as romantic but very important to women as a special event). The tactic worked but also influenced drinkers to save champagne for more special occasions instead of daily happy hour.

Most drinkers reach for a champagne flute, a tall thin glass that connoisseurs recommend for a better drinking experience. A flute will not over-expose the drink to oxygen and directs the nose toward the wine allowing for optimal flavor. However, coupe glasses are known to come in and out of style for their chic shape although they may weaken the flavor of champagne. They are rumored to have been made from a mold of Marie Antoinette’s left breast as a birthday present to her husband Louis XVI. They were meant to signify the drinks coming from the kindness of her heart. I prefer these shallow, bowl-like glasses because they make me feel like Grace Kelly.

(source Anatomy of a Classic)

However you choose to drink your champagne this New Year’s Eve, please do so safely. When combined with carbonated water, alcohol is consumed more rapidly and champagne’s bubbles work the same way. They aren’t lying when they say champagne goes right to your head!

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