“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering ‘it will be happier’…” — Alfred Lord Tennyson

Ringing in the New Year is a glorious occasion. Hopes of renewal lift the spirits and open the avenue for optimism. As we bid farewell to the challenges of the past, we can welcome the opportunity to prepare a brand-new, delicious life.

Therefore, a proper celebration is in order! New Year’s Eve is prime time to bid adieu to the old, and welcome new beginnings. Some may choose to celebrate out on the town, decked in glittering finery, dancing the night away. Others may opt for a quiet night at home. Whether a simple or sumptuous New Year’s Eve, celebrating would not be complete without a toast!

Beautiful beverages to toast the New Year can be prepared with alcohol or without, to suit each reveler. This conscious cook chooses to indulge in Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine, that is a lighter, though no less effervescent, alternative to champagne. As I don’t tolerate libations all that well, I prefer a choice that is lower in alcohol content. At no more than 12.5% alcohol, Prosecco can be a tantalizing and tolerable toasting choice.

Light and frothy, Prosecco marries well with fresh juices or a splash of berry-based liqueur, such as Cassis or Chambord. Just a splash of these liqueurs added to Prosecco, will lend a gorgeous tinge of ruby red to your glass.

Freshly squeezed juices also add vibrant color, as well as healthy attributes to the glass. Blood orange, pink or white grapefruit, and pomegranate juice are perfect partners for Prosecco. With more than 100 phytochemicals, pomegranate juice may possibly be one of the most heart healthy juices to include in your cocktail glass and every day menus. Packed with antioxidants, pomegranate juice may have beneficial effects on arthritis, cartilage damage, cholesterol and blood pressure.

An anti-inflammatory warrior, more pomegranate juice in your diet may provide powerful antiviral protection, enhanced memory, improved endurance and sports performance, and heighten fertility. Choose pomegranate juice with no added sugar and enjoy the nourishing benefits of this vitamin rich, rejuvenating juice.

Prosecco based cocktails pair quite nicely with fruit driven appetizers, salads and desserts. Ripe pears and raspberries on a bed of spinach, drizzled with blood orange vinaigrette would be a spectacular New Year’s salad. Add pomegranate seeds for extra color and crunch. Ripe melon wrapped with prosciutto, or served with grilled shrimp would be an elegant hors d’oeuvre. Asian dishes are especially excellent with Prosecco, whether it be a Thai noodle dish or wasabi spiked sushi rolls. For a sensational New Year’s dessert, set up a chocolate tasting flight. Dark chocolate will be your healthiest option, so select several types, starting at 72% cacao and ending with 90%. Add some dried apricots, fresh berries, mandarin oranges and toasted nuts and you will have a luxurious and luscious accompaniment to your glass of Prosecco.

Happy New Year! May it be filled with hope and many delicious days.

Perfect Prosecco Toast

Makes one cocktail

2 Tablespoons pomegranate juice

1 Tablespoon Chambord, Cassis or other berry liqueur

1 Tablespoon pomegranate seeds

chilled Prosecco

mint sprigs

1 lemon wedge

granulated sugar

Use the lemon wedge to moisten the rim of a champagne flute. Place the granulated sugar on a plate and dip the rim of the champagne flute into the sugar.

Add the pomegranate juice, liqueur and pomegranate seeds to the flute and top off with chilled

Prosecco. Garnish with mint.

Substitute pomegranate juice with fresh squeezed citrus juice, if desired.