Choosing the right champagne can be confusing AF. Jen Pelka, owner of San Francisco's new champagne bar The Riddler (it's run by an all-girl gang; go there now), breaks down how to buy a bottle for any bash or budget:
To Get the Party Started
"Don't be shy about going for a magnum. People go crazy for them, and a lot of small houses make them for surprisingly cheap—much cheaper than actually buying two bottles. Be prepared to be the belle of the ball."
She recommends: "Krug, Pol Roger, or Pierre Gimonnet & Fils [from $80]."
When You're on a Budget
"If you want true champagne—that is, made in 'Champagne, France'—it's almost impossible to find one for under $20."
She recommends: "Crémant de Loire— made in the same method but comes from the neighboring Loire Valley—by Langlois, M. Bonnamy, or Tissot Crémant du Jura. A perfectly delicious affordable alternative [$14 to $25]."
For New Year's Brunch
"Inexpensive cavas and proseccos are great for brunch cocktails—but think beyond the Mimosa!"
She recommends: "La Marca Prosecco [$14]. Mix with grapefruit juice and add a sprig of thyme or rosemary. Or pick another juice, add a sugar cube and a dash of Angostura bitters, and pour sparkling wine on it all."
When You Want to Impress
"I love Veuve Clicquot, and it's a house people know."
She recommends: "Instead of the basic label, try the Veuve Clicquot Rosé [$67]."
To Try Something Totally Different
"Go to your favorite wine store. Now avoid all the big labels you recognize. Instead, ask for an indie 'grower-producer.' The clerk will probably hand you something delicious and lower in price, and tell you a story about the unique way that vineyard makes its champagne."
She recommends: "Pierre Péters [from $50]."
A version of this article appears in the December issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands now.