New Year’s Eve Traditions Around the World | On The Rocks | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
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New Year’s Eve Traditions Around the World 

“You generally wear red underwear on New Year’s.”

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New Year’s Eve in the States means poppin’ bottles of Champagne, but around the world there are different ways to mark the occasion. City Paper asked a few Pittsburghers-by-way-of-elsewhere for their boozy traditions.

“The Italian tradition for New Year’s with me, it’s our homemade limoncello. [It’s] served straight from the freezer, in a somewhat more elegant shot glass; it adds a bit of fun to the evening. Zest 24 lemons, steep the zest in a gallon of grain spirits [190 proof] for 60 days. I use a three-gallon water jug. Make simple syrup with one gallon of water and 36 ounces of sugar. Strain the zest from the grain spirits and combine with the simple syrup. Mix thoroughly. Place in the freezer to chill, then serve. People tend to drink this and come back quickly for more. The fun starts about a half-hour later when it kicks in. It’s a great recipe if you would like to forget last year.”

— Ron Casertano, director at Consumer Fresh Produce Winemakers 

“In Spain, which is where I lived six years, the tradition is to eat grapes. At midnight, the clocks all strike 12, and at every strike of the bell, you eat a grape. You make a wish with every one, or a New Year’s resolution. The trick is [to] buy seedless grapes because otherwise you’re at risk of choking. Also in Spain, you generally wear red underwear on New Year’s. I have no idea where that tradition comes from. Maybe Catholic guilt.”

— Rob McCaughey, national business-development manager for spirits, Wine and Spirits Education Trust 

“Pitorro is traditionally illegal because it’s homemade rum that you bury underground. It’s like Caribbean moonshine, I guess. What you do is infuse it with fruits; the traditional one is quenepa. That’s what you drink on New Year’s Eve, it’s like a shot. Each household or family has a different recipe. Most families will have a combination of fruits, and they’ll be really proud of showing off their own [recipe].”

— Jamilka Borges, executive chef, Spoon

“I’m from the eastern part [of France] near Strasbourg. We used to eat a little a bit late, at 9 or 10 p.m. So we have a kind of aperitif with the family. We used to make a salmon toast, foie gras toast, small quiches with eggs and roe. We enjoy that with a glass of aperitif, Champagne, Pernod or maybe whiskey. Then, in my family we used to have oysters, clams or raw shellfish, and then good pieces of meat like filet mignon. We have a break and a granité between courses. Then we have fish, normally salmon, maybe stuffed mussels with butter with parsley, garlic, and you eat that with a brioche. Dessert is maybe a Yule log or macarons, but we need a break so we would watch a movie. We wait until it is midnight and kiss each other and maybe drink some Champagne.”

— David Piquard, pastry chef/co-owner, Gaby et Jules


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