Four Ways to Fix the Brunch Cocktail
Put down the mimosa and start embracing unconventional, easy morning drinks made with pisco, bourbon and a cold brew liqueur
When the weather first turned warm a few months back, my friends and I were able to find a brunch spot in Brooklyn that wasn’t too mobbed — as in, our wait for an outdoor table was about an hour. The weekend cocktail menu was an abbreviated version of their (far superior) afternoon and nighttime drinks list, and leaned on the usual variations of mimosas, Bloody Marys and screwdrivers, with only a paloma suggesting something more than the usual brunch dross.
It wasn’t listed, but I ordered a Black Manhattan that I remembered from their regular menu, and received an audible gasp from someone at the table (“it’s light out!”) as well as a confused, we’ll-see-if-we-can-do-that look from the waitstaff. They could, and, well, they might have been right to check.
Great drink. Did not need that level of brown spirit at noon on a Saturday with my eggs.
So I went searching for something to imbibe on those leisurely weekend mornings. I wanted something that challenged my palette, but also worked with a bagel and lox platter or Eggs Benedict. And thankfully, I actually found four new, exciting and imminently refreshing options, which I’ve shared below: One with whiskey (and elements of a morning tea). A pisco take on a gin classic. And, of course, an elevated take on cold brew, because even on weekends you need a little caffeine (we said just a little, Dan Campbell).
Chamomile Honey Whiskey Sour
A collaboration between entertaining expert Athena Calderone and Basil Hayden, I fell in love with this drink in June during an afternoon brunch. “The chamomile in the cocktail was most certainly a nod to the summer season,” Calderone tells us. “I developed a simple syrup using honey, lemon, and camomile which felt like the perfect approachable taste profile for a vibrant aperitif-style cocktail.”
- 2 parts Basil Hayden
- 1 part lemon juice
- 1 part chamomile simple syrup *
- 2 dashes citrus bitters
- Dried chamomile flowers (for serving, optional)
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and vigorously shake with ice. Strain cocktail into a coupe glass. Garnish with gently crushed dried chamomile flowers.
*Chamomile simple syrup:
- 2 Tbsp dried chamomile flowers
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup boiling water
Mix water and flowers in a medium bowl and let stand for two minutes. Muddle the chamomile with the back of a wooden spoon, releasing its fragrance. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on the chamomile to release all water. Immediately stir honey into the camomile mixture and stir until well combined.
The Morada 75
“The Morada 75 is our version of the French 75,” explains Chef Diego Muñoz from POPULAR at the PUBLIC Hotel in Manhattan. “It’s unique because it uses a very traditional Peruvian beverage, the chicha morada, made of purple corn, boiled with many fruits like pineapple and green apples, and cloves and cinnamon. We make the chicha morada in house. The color, flavor and aroma is unique. It is a very refreshing and gentle cocktail.”
- 1 oz Pisco Acholado
- .25 oz chicha morada*
- .25 oz lemon juice
- .5 oz simple syrup
- 2.5 oz Rosé sparkling wine
Add all ingredients, except the rosé, to a cocktail shaker. Dry shake with no ice. Then add ice and gently shake again to mix and temper the ingredients. Strain into a flute glass. Top with rosé and garnish with an edible flower, such as an Inca Begonia.
- 1.5 oz purple corn base**
- 1 tsp simple syrup
- 2 tsp lemon juice
Mix the purple corn base with simple syrup and lemon juice.
**Purple corn base:
- 2 qts water
- 2 lbs purple corn ears
- .5 lb pineapple peels
- 1/2 Granny Smith apple
- 1/6 quince
- 1/4 cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves
Bring water to a boil. Add all ingredients and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes. Preserve and refrigerate.
“This is a great brunch option because it gives you almost a full shot of espresso, and a more balanced amount of vodka, so it doesn’t completely ruin your morning,” explains Patrick Smith, the Manager of Bar Openings at Union Square Hospitality Group (you’ll find this buzzy drink at Union Square Cafe). “We intentionally dialed back the vodka just a little bit here because it helps the flavor of the espresso and the vanilla really come through. And to me, this is exactly the right amount of liquor to have in a cocktail during brunch.”
- 1 oz Ketel One Vodka
- .75 oz Mr Black Cold Brew Coffee Liquor
- .75 oz espresso
- .5 oz Giffard Vanille de Madagascar
- .25 oz demerara syrup
Shake with ice. Strain into a coupe. Garnish with three coffee beans.
Not all breakfast drinks have to be mild. If you want to start your day with a bit of spice, try this brunch cocktail from NYC’s GITANO Garden of Love. “It’s the perfect dose of mezcal,” as the Mexican restaurant notes. “And the drink is seductively disguised with a dash of chile, lime and cilantro.” It’s also incredibly simple to make and to batch for larger groups.
- 2 oz Gem & Bolt Mezcal
- .75 oz fresh lime juice
- .75 oz Jungle Syrup (basically, simple syrup or jalapeño simple syrup)
Stir, and garnish with cilantro and chile.
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