Cereal Sales Are Down, But These Childhood Faves Are All Over Cocktail Menus

We're even more cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs when they come with whiskey

January 4, 2024 11:03 am
Lowball glass with orange-colored liquid and orange peel twist on a table in front of a red booth seat
Bitter Truth Cocktail, a Cocoa Puffs-flavored drink
Nick Johnson

Americans may be eating far less breakfast cereal in the mornings, but they’re head-over-heels for it come cocktail hour. From Cinnamon Toast Crunch-infused milk punch in San Francisco to a Reese’s Puff Old Fashioned in Miami, these cocktails are omnipresent from coast to coast.

Of course, according to Punch, this trend is nothing new: Toeing that line between culinary nostalgia and Insta-worthy maximalism, breakfast cereal seems tailor-made for the current cocktail wave, not just as an easily recognizable garnish but as a madeleine de Proust of sorts, rocketing barflies back to mornings in front of Cartoon Network.

Chocolate cereals are a common star of such cocktails. At NYC’s Koloman, Cocoa Puffs flavor the Bitter Truth, a play on the Boulevardier made with Japanese whiskey, Campari, vermouth and apricot liqueur. Originally intended as a way to upcycle sacher torte trimmings, the cocktail has outlasted the presence of the Viennese cake on the restaurant’s dessert menu, evolving into a drink that beverage director Katja Scharnagl says has proven even more successful.

“The Cocoa Puffs infuse quickly, leaving less residual composite in the batch,” she says.

In Miami, Cocoa Puffs also featured on the cocktail menu of Broken Shaker until recently, when the team decided to change things up, instead infusing smoky Angel’s Envy Bourbon with Reese’s Puffs, which, according to bar manager Jose Perez-Roura, add a toastier note perfect for winter.

“Rich in flavor yet silky in texture, this cocktail balances the bitter flavors of chocolate with the sweet flavors of peanut butter, harmoniously creating the perfect bitter yet sweet symphony,” he says.

But chocolate cereals aren’t alone in making their way to the top of cocktail lists nationwide. At San Francisco’s the Madrigal, a new milk punch sees rum and bourbon clarified with Cinnamon Toast Crunch-infused milk. The resulting cocktail, dubbed Word Painting, is the fruit of quite a bit of experimentation on the part of Suzanne Miller, who first considered Fruity Pebbles for that nostalgic cereal milk flair. But the autumnal character of cinnamon proved too tempting to ignore.

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The final cocktail boasts a few more allusions to breakfast, with the addition of both chamomile and banana liqueur to the blend seasoned with spices like coriander and clove.

“For me, bourbon has always smelt heavily of banana, and the grain is obviously a directly complementing flavor of grain cereals,” she says. “I split this with rum to add some dimension, and make sure the bourbon was not overpowering to other nuanced flavors.”

At Lost Whale in Milwaukee, Tripper Duval took things in a far fruitier direction, infusing Cap’n Crunch’s Oops All Berries cereal into coconut milk to form the base of a fruity punch with a bourbon-rye base.

“I am 100% a kid at heart, so when it comes to flavors in cocktails that tend to require something outside the box, I tend to go more into the box,” he says, noting that this is not his first rodeo when it comes to playing with breakfast cereal in cocktails. He’s previously infused a Brandy Alexander with Cinnamon Toast Crunch and has tried (thus far unsuccessfully) to make a Corn Pops-infused milk for a riff on a Painkiller. 

As for his current offering, he says that while it’s tough to beat the flavor of fresh raspberries, the Oops All Berries cereal actually brings way more to the table than artificial fruitiness. 

“I learned that most of those rainbow style cereals tend to be lemongrass flavored,” he says, “so the idea to start with lemongrass and build around it with coconut, whiskey, amaretto and fruit punch just seemed like a great direction.”

But while bartenders can definitely get cerebral with these cocktails, they all maintain that it’s nostalgia that proves the most enticing element of their cereal-infused creations.

“The flavor was tied to my heartstrings from being a kid and watching Saturday morning cartoons and not having a care in the world besides what Raph and the rest of the turtles were going to be getting into today,” says Duval.

The responsibilities of adulthood may seem eons away from those mornings, but according to Miller, that’s part of the charm of these cocktails, now that we’re all grown up.

“In my world, Cinnamon Toast Crunch was the best, most desired, most denied by my mom, cereal,” she says. “And now, nothing can stop us!”

Lowball cocktail glass with clearish-green liquid and garnished with a brown leaf in front of a box of Cinnamon TOast Crunch and next to a plant.
Word Painting Milk Punch, aka “Cinnamon Toast Punch”
The Madrigal

Word Painting Milk Punch, aka "Cinnamon Toast Punch"  

Servings: About 5 cups

  • 3 lemons
  • 15 coriander seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 tablespoon green anise seeds
  • ¾ cups white sugar
  • 2 cups hot chamomile tea
  • 1 cup Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • ½ cup rum
  • 4 ounces banana liqueur
    1. Peel lemons of their zest, and use a microplane to get any little bits left. Juice the lemons and combine the juice and peels in a bowl. Add the whole spices, and muddle until the spices are crushed. Add the sugar, and continue muddling until the sugar is completely moist. Add the hot chamomile tea, and let steep for 15 minutes. Add the bourbon and rum.

    2. In a separate container, combine the cereal and milk. Let sit for 5 minutes, stirring a few times. Strain the cereal from the milk, and put the milk into the bottom of a 6 to 8-quart container.

    3. Slowly add the punch mixture into the milk, stirring slowly all the while. Patience is key here! Do not rush this, and do not add milk to punch mixture. Your punch will not clarify as well due to surface area exposure of acid to the milk. Gently stir, and let sit 45 minutes so the milk and acid can interact fully.  

    4. Next, in a larger container, line a chinois with a serviette or cheesecloth. Do this a second time with a fine meshed chinois that will fit inside the larger chinois. This will give two strains at once. Slowly begin pouring the milk punch mixture into the chinois, filling it all the way to the top. Do NOT try to help this process. Again, patience is key. This could take hours and any rushing will likely affect the clarity of the punch, so leave yourself enough time to “set it and forget it.” As the liquid strains, continue adding the punch to the cambro until the entire volume has passed through. 

    5. Repeat this process a second time, through the old curds and the same chinois. Your liquid will be very well strained and light in color, but will likely still have some opacity to it. Do not cut corners on this step, the curds are a crucial part of the secondary clarification. This will take a while. Maybe a couple of hours. Again, do not rush and you will not regret it! 

    6. Pour 5 ounces of Milk Punch over ice, and enjoy with tea biscuits for an extra dimension of flavor. I love Lotus Biscoff! 

Bitter Truth

Servings: 1 cocktail

  • 2 ¾ ounces Bitter Truth batch (recipe below)
  • 1 ounce toki
  • 1 ounce campari
  • ½ ounce sweet vermouth
  • ¼ ounce crème d’abricot
  • 2 dashes saline
  • 2 dashes chocolate bitters
    1. Stir the ingredients in a cocktail pitcher. Strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with trimmed orange twist.

Bitter Truth Batch

Servings: Enough for recipe

  • 950 grams toki
  • 950 grams campari
  • 238 grams crème d’abricot
  • 712 grams sweet vermouth
  • 150 grams Cocoa Puffs
    1. Add all ingredients to a cambro. Allow to infuse for 4 hours. Fine strain. Strain a second time through a coffee filter.

Brown liquid in a lowball glass with large sphere ice cube and orange peel twist in front of a pool
Reese’s Puff Old Fashion
Broken Shaker

Reese’s Puffs Old Fashioned 

Servings: 1 cocktail

  • 2 ounces Reese’s Puffs batch (recipe below)
  • ¼ ounce demerara syrup
  • 3 dashes Angostura chocolate bitters
    1. Stir ingredients together in a mixing glass.  Serve in a rocks glass with large king cube.  Garnish with orange peel.  

Reese's Puffs Batch

Servings: Enough for recipe

  • 1 liter Angel’s Envy bourbon
  • ⅓ box Reese’s Puffs cereal
    1. Combine the bourbon and cereal in a container with a lid. Cover and infuse 24 hours. Strain through a fine strainer before using.


Servings: 1 cocktail

  • ¾ ounce Old Forester 100 Bourbon
  • ½ ounce Old Forester 100 Rye (or Beam Prohibition Rye) 
  • ¾ ounce Fruit Punch Syrup (recipe below)
  • ¼ ounce amaretto 
  • 1 ounce Oops All Berries-infused coconut milk (recipe below)
  • ½ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 dash Bittercube Jamaican #1
  • 1 dash Bittercube Jamaican #2
    1. Remove the top of an Oops All Berries soda can with a can opener and set aside. Add all ingredients into a shaker. Add ice and shake hard and well until chilled and diluted. Double strain over fresh ice into the soda can. (A Collins-style glass also works great). Garnish with fresh mint and tiny adorable skewered Whale Gummy. 

Can of Jolly Good
Jolly Good soda
Jolly Good

Fruit Punch Syrup

Servings: About 5 cups

  • 24 ounces Jolly Good fruit punch
  • 20 ounces granulated sugar
    1. Combine the fruit punch and sugar in a mixing bowl, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour into a bottle and keep in the fridge until ready to use.

Oops All Berries-infused coconut milk

Servings: About 5 cups

  • 2 cups Ca’n Crunch Oops All Berries cereal
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk.
    1. Combine the coconut milk and cereal in a bowl. Infuse for 60 minutes, stirring well every 15 minutes. Strain the coconut milk through a fine mesh strainer into a seal-able container. (Infusion will keep for up to one week.)


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