December 31: New Year’s Eve

Baby New YearIt’s New Year’s Eve, ladies and gentlemen. You’ve probably got plans tonight, so I’m not going to take up too much of your time. How about I quickly tell the origins of a New Year’s Eve tradition, and then give you a nice drink recipe?

Have you ever wondered how the tradition of dropping the ball in Times Square got started? It all began in 1903 when The New York Times‘ owner, Adolph Ochs, decided to celebrate the opening of  One Times Square, the newspaper’s new headquarters, with a New Year’s Eve fireworks show. 200,000 people showed up to watch the fireworks welcome in 1904. The fireworks would continue for a few years, but Ochs wanted to do something a little bigger that would draw attention to the building itself.

Eventually, the Times‘ chief electrician, Walter F. Painer suggested the dropping of a “time ball.” If you, like most people, are unfamiliar with the concept of a time ball, it’s an obsolete time keeping device consisting of a large ball is dropped at predetermined times, so ship navigators can accurately set their marine chronometer, allowing them to keep time while at sea. So, a 700 pound ball, made from iron, wood and one hundred incandescent light bulbs was built and then used to ring in the start of 1908.

Since then, the Times Square Ball has been dropped every year, with the exception of New Year’s Eve 1942 and 1943 when wartime lighting restrictions caused the cancellation of the event. The current Times Square Ball weighs 11,875 pounds and is made up of 2,688 Waterford Crystal panels and 32,256 LED lamps.

Now, there are any number of champagne cocktails that you could enjoy tonight (personally, I’m thinking about whipping up a batch of Old Cubans), but the most thematically appropriate might be a Happy New Year. It’s an easy to make, festive mix of champagne, brandy, really good port and orange juice.

Happy New Year

  • 1/4 ounce Brandy
  • 3/4 ounce Ruby Port
  • 3/4 ounce orange juice
  • 4 ounce Champagne

Shake everything except the champagne with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into a champagne flute. Top off with champagne.

Tomorrow: 2014.

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