Here’s a Selection of Choice Champagnes

Sparkling wine is inherently festive, but that doesn’t mean you have to stow away your precious bottles until 11:45 on New Year’s Eve. To the contrary, it means you’ve got the power to turn any moment into a celebration with the mere popping of a cork. Not sure what to serve? Here’s a selection of choice champagnes and other types of bubbly at varying prices that are far too good to save until the next boozy performance of “Auld Lang Syne.”

Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne 2002 ($140) is joyful and delicious, with a great bite on the tip of the tongue, notes of birch, and a perfect balance of tart and sweet. Having a glass waiting when you step out of the shower is (speaking from experience) the height of decadence. Dom Pérignon Vintage 2002 ($150) is the standard-bearer from the first name in champagne, and it’s a truly refined pour, with notes of apple, citrus, and honey, and Dom’s signature velvety mouthfeel. It’s the good life in a glass. Creeping even further upscale, the austere and refined Dom Pérignon OEnothèque 1996 ($350) has a rich aroma of coffee and caramel, and notes of vanilla on the tongue. Its price tag keeps it mainly in the hands of connoisseurs and collectors, but consider splurging, for it would be a sad world indeed if only hedge fund managers got to enjoy it. Dom Pérignon Rosé 2000 ($350) boasts a unique peach and copper color, a wall of intense dark fruit flavors at the front, and notes of orange peel and spice with the long finish.

From the house of Moët comes Moët & Chandon Impérial ($38), a flavorful, fruit-driven champagne made from pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot meunier grapes. Moët’s tasty new Grand Vintage 2002 ($65), meanwhile, has hints of white peach, citrus, pear, and toasted almonds. And I’ve always enjoyed Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut ($43), a rich-tasting wine with tiny bubbles and notes of apples and pears. It might not be the most expensive of the bunch, but to me it’s the very definition of champagne.

Although most do, quality bubbly doesn’t have to come from France anymore. Italy’s new Ruffino Prosecco ($15) has notes of pear and citrus and tastes a lot more expensive than it is, making it the perfect cork to pop at a picnic or outdoor concert. From Spain comes a cava called Anna de Codorníu Brut Rosé ($15), a pinot noir-and-chardonnay blend that has a pleasing tartness and blueberry flavors. The supple Bagrationi 1882 Classic Sparkling Wine ($15) from the former Soviet republic of Georgia grabs you right at the start with a great bite and notes of tangerine. Finally, from beautiful northern California come a couple of bottles worthy of your living room table. The 2000 DVX by Mumm Napa Valley Sparkling Wine ($50) is delightfully tart and chewy, with aromas of fine wood and notes of nectarine. It’s festive without being fussy. Finally, Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Extra Dry California Sparkling Wine ($10) has sharp little bubbles, a citrus bite at the front, flavors of pineapple, and a long, pleasurable finish. It’s ideal for a fall evening in need of that extra little spark.

Musician Tom Vek Gets Schooled & Sloshed on Champagne

Although the title only applies to one of us, Tom Vek and I are both living like rock stars as we relax at PH-D Rooftop Lounge at the new Dream Downtown hotel in New York, which happens to be where BlackBook will be celebrating its 15th birthday. The sun is setting over the Hudson River, a million city lights are flickering to life, and Miss Cayman Islands 2006 is plying us with an inspired selection of champagne cocktails. Yes, life is good, and Tom seems at ease as we talk about his new album, Leisure Seizure (out September 13), the follow-up to 2005’s We Have Sound, which—along with appearances on The OC and the Grand Theft Auto IV soundtrack—helped him gain a following in his native England as well as in the States.

The 30-year-old multi-instrumentalist has a unique sound, which fuses the DNA of a soulful singer-songwriter with the polish of a modern pop star. Leisure Seizure showcases both his commanding voice and finely honed production skills, with driving beats, stripped-down guitars, and buzzing synthesizers that make you either want to hit the dance floor or kick back with a drink—which brings us back to the other reason for our visit: booze. Tonight’s mixologist is much more than a pretty face. Ambuyah Ebanks, who worked at the Soho Grand Hotel’s Grand Bar before helping open PH-D this summer, has a gift for fusing disparate ingredients into flavorful, well-balanced cocktails that are as beautiful as they are delicious. As the drinks begin arriving—which, with the exception of the Edelweiss, are Ebanks’ own creations—Vek holds forth on school trips, candy floss, and the sheer joy of having too much of a good thing.

COCKTAIL #1: Mello Cello 1 oz. Stoli Citros Vodka ½ oz. Cointreau ¾ oz. lemon juice ½ oz. simple syrup Pour ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass and shake. Strain into a champagne flute and top with Saint-Hilaire Brut followed by 3 dashes of Angostura bitters. Garnish with a lemon twist. TOM VEK: “The nose reminds me of my mum’s carrot cakes and the flavor makes me think of being on a school trip to France as a pre-teen and drinking Orangina: It’s a youthful cocktail, and it makes me feel young.”

COCKTAIL #2: Elder Agave Dream 1 oz. Cazadores Blanco Tequila ½ oz. St. Germain ¾ oz. grapefruit juice ½ oz. lemon juice ½ oz. simple syrup Pour ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass and shake. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice and top with Saint-Hilaire Brut. Garnish with a lime wheel. TV: “I’m getting the aroma of really good quality wood and leather, and it tastes almost like ginger beer. It’s well-matched between sour and sweet.”

COCKTAIL #3: The Dancing Rose 1 oz. Hendrick’s Gin ¾ oz. Vie Vité Extraordinaire Rosé ¾ oz. lemon juice ½ oz. simple syrup Pour ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass and shake. Strain into a cocktail glass and top with Moët & Chandon Ice Impérial. Garnish with a cucumber slice. TV: “The smell reminds me of freshly cut grass after the sprinkler has gone over it, or a field of strawberries. It’s like a reconstructed old-fashioned lemonade with watermelon.”

COCKTAIL #4: Sea Blue Star 1 oz. Starr African Rum ½ oz. Bols Triple Sec ½ oz. white cranberry juice ¾ oz. lemon juice ½ oz. simple syrup Pour ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass and shake. Strain into a champagne flute rimmed with a mix of Blue Curaçao and sugar and top with Moët & Chandon Ice Imperial. TV: “It’s slightly joyless for how joyful it looks, like an austere drink in party clothes. But it has a nice, clean taste with hints of apple and candy floss. It’s like cybergoth champagne. This is starting to feel like a leisure seizure. The idea that I’m being brought cocktails faster than I can drink them ties into the concept of the album.”

COCKTAIL #5: Edelweiss 4 oz. Moët & Chandon Ice Impérial ½ oz. St. Germain ½ oz. lemon juice Pour all ingredients into a wine glass with ice then top with a splash of club soda. Garnish with a heaping spoonful of pomegranate seeds. TV: “This is very much a summer drink, like a glass of juice into which you put a load of ice. It’s representative of the chilling process, though somewhat diluted by its own identity. It’s very easy to drink, and the elderflower from the St. Germain really comes through.”

‘Boardwalk Empire”s Aleksa Palladino & Husband Devon Church Make Exitmusic

When Aleksa Palladino landed the role of Angela Darmody—the New Jersey housewife with dreams of moving to Paris and becoming a painter—on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, the 30-year-old actor, along with her husband and music partner, Devon Church, leapt at the chance to relocate from LA to Palladino’s hometown on the East Coast. “I grew up in New York, where my friend and I used to sneak into the Chelsea Hotel looking for the ghost of Sid Vicious,” she says. “One day, we roamed the halls and came across some blood. Screaming, we ran out and went to go see a movie to calm ourselves down. I remember watching Christian Slater in Untamed Heart, all the while sure that Sid was sitting next to me.”

In October, Palladino and Church, collectively known as Exitmusic, will release their second EP, From Silence, via Secretly Canadian. According to the pair, who first met aboard a train in Canada, they’ve finally hit their stride on the record, eschewing sappy love songs in favor of captivating tunes that fuse Palladino’s powerful vocals—her mom’s an opera singer—with Church’s virtuosic guitar playing. “We don’t write love songs because we’re right there together,” Church says. “There’s no pining, at least not for one another,” Palladino adds, alluding to larger themes of loss and regret on the album. “We have a very similar view of the world and humanity. The album is experimental, with ambient sounds mixed in, but it’s also got a definite sense of urgency.” This exigency, Palladino says, creeps into both her acting and her music. “There’s some revelation of me in both,” she says. “Although I’m speaking someone else’s words, it’s my experience that guides the character. With music I have more control over saying what I want to say directly.”

Introducing Our Inaugural Culture Curve

Introducing our first-ever Culture Curve, the parabola of pop: a no-risk gamble on who and what’s on the up-and-up, at the very top, and on the outs. Take a look at the breakdown after the jump!

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About to Explode ● The… Freedom… Tower? ● Visors (see: Brad Pitt in Moneyball; your nana). ● Juno Temple: trust us on this one. ● Tavi, the magazine editor. ● Procreation (if we can see your junk, your jeans are too tight). ● Monster Blasberg, man-about-town Derek Blasberg’s fake dog’s fake twitter account (“@derekblasberg: why don’t you follow me? I fucking follow you everywhere”). ● James Spader’s oily, mesmerizing turn as Robert California, the new CEO of Dunder Mifflin on NBC’s The Office. ● The Weeknd’s perfectly pervy r&b. ● Roll models to role models: Fat actors drastically shedding weight, like Jonah Hill and Entourage’s Jerry Ferrara.

Saturation Point ● Fairy tales: (NBC’s Grimm, ABC’s Once Upon a Time, the two upcoming Snow White movies). ● Madame Wong’s (literally, the place is closed). ● The letter M. ● Martha Marcy May Marlene. ● Mormonism. (Those Quiksilver-looking subway ads for mormon.org really pushed it over the edge) ● The cast of Glee. Are we the only ones who’ve lost track?

Over the Hill ● Animal-title movies (Straw Dogs, A Bird of the Air, Chasing Madoff). ● … Especially when They’re in 3D (Shark Night 3D, The Lion King 3D, Dolphin Tale 3D). ● Tanning beds. (Gym, laundry, safe for now.) ● Pippa. ● Planking. ● Owling. ● Loving and/or hating dubstep too much. ● Bathroom voyeurs. ● Tavi, the style rookie. ● Creepers. To borrow a quote from the Countess Luann, “Even Prada makes mistakes.” ● Celebrity mermaid hair (Rihanna, Blake Lively, Scarlett Johansson). ● Hashtags. #4realz #enough.

Meet Twin Sister, the Coolest Thing Out of Long Island Since Iced Tea

It’s a testament to the freewheeling nature of Twin Sister’s music that singer Andrea Estella and drummer Bryan Ujueta aren’t worried about releasing a less-than-polished record. Dissatisfied with the terms used to summarize their second EP (“dream pop” being one of the most prominent), last year’s Color Your Life, the Long Island–bred band are exploring new sonic terrain on their first full-length album, In Heaven. Expect more electronic elements and American frontier–style, guitar-tinged melodies.

“To be honest, I don’t know how cohesive the whole thing is,” says 23-year-old Ujueta. “It’s all over the place, and that might be the best or the worst thing about it.” The schizophrenic nature of In Heaven (“We tried various styles to prove to ourselves and to others that we could do different things”) was part of a conscious effort to color their music outside the lines of the indie pop and chillwave labels that they’d been filed under by music publications. “The album is a reaction to the genres that people were constantly boxing us into,” says Ujueta. “In the future there won’t be as much of a need to do that, and maybe then we’ll find a more cohesive sound.”

Let’s hope not. In Heaven’s artfully scattered composition takes listeners on a ride between funky, disco-infused beats on tracks like “Bad Street” and more mellow overtures of synth on “Kimmi in a Rice Field.” Sure, Estella, Ujueta, and their band mates—keyboardist Dev Gupta, guitarist Eric Cardona, and bassist Gabe D’Amico—were hoping to debunk expectations with this album, but they were also trying just as hard to impress themselves. “We started improvising and changing up sections of songs, just to show each other new things on the fly,” Ujueta says of the tracks that were penned last winter when the group lived together in a Hamptons rental house.

Estella, the shy and softspoken songstress who still wrestles with stage fright, adds that her contributions to the album were influenced by personal obsessions, including Japanese anime and childhood parties with her Puerto Rican relatives. These tidbits, she says, give the album a worldly feel. “The record ties a lot of places in the world together—at least, that’s what we intended for it to do.” It seems the road to Heaven is also paved with good intentions.

A Letter From the CEO: My Breakup with Facebook

I had to break it off. We had a decent run and shared a lot of memories, but the sea of minutiae overwhelmed me, and I lost interest. I wanted to see other people. It was time to deactivate my Facebook account. Though they tried to keep me by dangling old wall posts and pictures of “friends” I didn’t recognize, I was done.

My online saturation point coincides with the 15th anniversary of BlackBook magazine. To mark the occasion, it seemed fi tting to deactivate my account on the world’s largest social media site. It was my gift to myself, one that would allow me to spend less time online and to stop handing over free content to Facebook shareholders.

In our 15th Anniversary Issue, we’re toasting the amazing contributors, eye-catching visuals, and incredible behind-the-scenes access we’ve provided to our loyal readers during this decidedly rocky time for print journalism. The pendulum is about to swing back. The luxuriousness of engrossing oneself in a gorgeously printed, tactile magazine is a part of life we should never give up—and sitting in front of one’s laptop, or texting away while tossing off navel-gazing fi ller to “friends” is, simply put, not really living.

As we’ve done consistently with our editorial content, we’re going to go out on a limb: We’re wagering that, contrary to all the technology-fueled exuberance, people are about to recognize the shortcomings of the digital experience and the futility of creating free content for social media outlets. For one, as much as we love them, our Blackberrys, iPhones, and Androids—and the social media to which they give us real-time access—are in many ways killing our nightlife. “Plans” are a dinosaur, replaced by promises to “text me later.” Look around the hottest clubs and you’ll see tastemakers hunched over and banging away on their keyboards searching for something better—they’re there in body but not in mind.

We tried an experiment the other night at a dinner with friends at Sean MacPherson’s buzzing Crow’s Nest enclave out in Montauk. We turned off our iPhones and Blackberrys, committing to not even glance at them until we’d left the restaurant. No quick checks on the bathroom line, nor while half the table was out having a smoke. It was disturbingly hard to go cold turkey—even with the smell of beach bonfires in the air. The result of our all-too-brief technology blackout was that we actually focused on each other and had a terrific, fully engaged time. We were living our lives in the beautiful, physical, analog present—a true experience we’ll remember, even without any TwitPics to prove it happened.

If I’m not constantly checking my phone, I’m probably not going to be one of the fi rst to know when major news breaks. Just 15 years ago, as the first issue of BlackBook was going to press, you might even have waited until the next morning to read about it in The New York Times—and when you did, you’d experience an accurate, balanced, editorial account of the events. We’ve forsaken reliability for the cheap thrill of instant gratification. That’s a lot to give up in exchange for a news alert pinging in your pocket.

I predict that The Social Network will have marked the zenith of Facebook as a brand. Those who are providing content for media sites (social or otherwise) are going to expect to get paid for it. Until then, the beneficiaries of our free labor don’t let you go easily: Facebook shows you all your “friends” who will “miss you” if you leave. I’m not arguing that Facebook will go the way of Friendster—or of 27th Street in New York, for that matter—but I believe it’s one of the first signs that we’ll look back on the 2010s as the Decade of Disengagement, or, at best, the beginning of a return to a healthy balance between our actual and digital lives. Advertisers are recognizing that experiential marketing is the place to be to make a true impact. Taking the time to enjoy the print experience, complete with sumptuous pictures and thoughtful profiles from world-class photographers, editors, and writers, is on its way back. Here’s to another 15 years.

Our September Issue Editor’s Letter

I dislike editor’s letters. The cutesy rhyme—editor’s letters—makes me cringe just like it did when Mystikal, on Mariah Carey’s “Don’t Stop (Funkin’ 4 Jamaica),” paired “bowl of gumbo” with “play in the clubo.” I find the supposed omniscience of the letters inauthentic in a patronizing, Wizard of Oz–type way, and, truth be told, part of me resents playing tour guide when we typically reserve two to three precious pages of each issue for the table of contents.

My aversion to writing these missives spawned a feature called Not an Editor’s Letter, which debuted in our October 2009 Surveillance Issue. In it, Brett Ratner railed against a stranger on a plane who tweeted about the director’s “syncopated snoring.” Since then, folks like Snoop Dogg, Lindsay Lohan, and Bianca Jagger have put pen to paper to discuss themes from political activism and fashion as art to Lady Gaga’s private parts, not respectively.

But this one’s different, and not just because it’s BlackBook’s 15th anniversary issue—although that is a source of considerable pride. Going forward, we’re refocusing our content. Although the difference won’t be glaring, we hope that the changes will make the magazine more accessible to new readers, who’ll be lured in by our show-stopping, envelope-pushing photography, and who’ll stick around because they know what to expect from us. Starting with this issue, we’ll lead the conversation on Who’s Next and What’s Next. Let’s use two of the many wonderful talents in this issue as examples. Brit Marling, the season’s breakout film star for her breathtaking turn as a lost soul in Another Earth, which she co-wrote, produced, and stars in, is Who’s Next. We hadn’t heard of her until very recently, but now we can’t get her out of our heads. Vera Farmiga, meanwhile, grabbed our attention in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, and again with her Oscar-nominated portrayal of a frequent flier in Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air. (Don’t miss Orphan’s climactic scene, one of the most underrated in the history of cinema, in which Farmiga, as a mother scorned by the child she adopts—a “young girl” who turns out to be a 33-year-old prostitute with proportional dwarfism—begs to be saved from drowning in an icy lake. Farmiga looks her dead in the eyes and kicks her in the face with a boot, but not before screaming, “I’m not! Your fucking! Mommy!”) She’s now changing gears by directing her critically acclaimed debut feature film, Higher Ground—in other words, What’s Next.

Since its inception in the fall of 1996, BlackBook has undergone a number of facelifts and mood swings, but it’s always been a place where readers can find a sophisticated and sincere (although never too serious) take on culture, both popular and peripheral. Musician and friend Ryan Adams—whom I first met during a stunt that had him interning at our offices—put it best when he said we’re all just a “bunch of freaks and outsiders.” It’s a flag we proudly wave, even when our arms get tired.

And, believe me, they do. The only reason BlackBook still exists is because of the tireless work poured into it by creative and collaborative minds who deserve better pay and Sundays off. That none of us will get either anytime soon is a shame. But it’s also comforting, because it’s proof that we do this job because it inspires us, because it thrills us, and because we can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s a passion—with a streak of insanity—shared by all of the formidable editors who held this post before me, and those who will undoubtedly hold it long after I leave.

Do I love this editor’s letter? No, I most certainly do not. Do I love this issue? You’re fucking right I do. Leaf through it, if for no other reason than to relish the Grecian beauty of cover stars Alexander Skarsgård and Kate Bosworth, or the hilarious idiocy of Dionysian butt-buddies Paul Rudd and Adam Scott. I hope there’s something for you here, not just because a lot of people missed a lot fun parties putting it together, but because we photographed Ladyfag sitting half-naked on a pool table. For better or worse, our collective heart beats for this magazine, which has become our home—even if that home is a crowded, chaotic, asbestos-ridden lair with a fickle air conditioner.

The Black List: The 15 Things Kat Dennings Hates Most

1. Buffering/Loading. Every internet streaming experience will doubtless be interrupted at some point by buffering/loading. This is unacceptable. We can do everything on the internet—order pizza, buy clothes, adopt puppies, do taxes, talk to people in Lithuania—but we can’t watch Puffball: The Devil’s Eyeball without interruption.

2. Boatneck tops. Are you serious? Who in their right mind would wear a boatneck? I’ve never wanted my clavicle to be a focal point. People who are actually on boats don’t even wear boatneck tops. They wear coats and stuff.

3. Marzipan. It’s disgusting. I can appreciate the shapes it’s sometimes molded into, but that’s as far as it goes. Someone once told me that right before you die, everything smells like almonds. It probably isn’t true and that person sounds like an idiot, but it brings me to this conclusion: Marzipan is made from almonds, almonds smell like death, and, therefore, marzipan smells like death. Fruit-shaped death.

4. “Hilarious” tip jars. Stop it. I was going to tip you anyway but since your tip jar is “hilarious,” it makes the whole thing much more difficult than it has to be. I’ve got news for you: God does not save a kitten every time I tip, and how dare you prey on my weaknesses like that. Here’s a dollar.

5. Nazis. Hate them.

6. Bicycle people. I can’t even deal with bicycle people. Don’t be in my lane. Be in the designated bicycle lane or on the sidewalk. Also, wear some sort of head protection. What do you think cars are made out of? Marshmallows?

7. “On accident.” It is not “on accident.” It is “by accident.” Example: “Your Honor, my prosthetic leg flew into his face by accident.”

8. Your/You’re, Too/To, and They’re/Their/There. Not to sound like some kind of asshole all over this list, but it just gets my goat when people confuse these.

9. Surprise full-body scans. “Step over here, please.” “Okay.” “Put your hands up like this.” “Okay… wait, why do I haaaaagghhhh! Damn you!” I’ve been tricked into airport full-body scans one time too many. Most recently, I stepped out of the machine and the security guy smiled at me and said, “Nice.”

10. The “Keep Calm and Carry On” signs. Don’t tell me how to live my life. Maybe I want to “Go Apeshit and Give Up.” It’s none of anyone’s damn business. These signs were originally meant to raise morale among the British public during World War II. Now they’re on mugs and the dorm walls of people I don’t like very much.

11. “Quirky.” Just cut to the chase and say, “Kat comes off as an empty, female-shaped shell occupied by a mustachioed British demon.”

12. That old lady that one time. I’d been walking down a delightful suburban street, listening to some Beck and generally minding my own business, when I looked up just in time to avoid bumping into a seemingly harmless old lady. Oh, sorry, I said, and kept walking. Something about her face stuck in my mind, and I thought to myself, Was she terrifying? I’ll just steal another look. I turned around and she was staring at me with an evil, toothless grin. I almost fell down, and then she laughed at me and walked away. That old lady that one time—I hate her.

13. Mass texts from people you met once. No, I do not want to go to your “awes0me BBQ;).” Nor do I want to find you a roommate by the end of next month. I deleted you from my phone but that didn’t do any good, did it? Because now your texts just display a bunch of numbers instead of whatever your name is.

14. When I’m out of chickpeas.

15. People who hate cats. Do you hate babies? Do you hate bunny rabbits? Do you hate sea otters? Of course not, so why would you hate cats? I’ll tell you why. Because unlike other animals, cats know you’re a dick. You don’t hate cats; cats hate you. Especially Kat Dennings.