Four Brunch Cocktails to Wake Up Your Weekend
Whether your idea of brunch involves pancakes in your PJs or an elaborate spread for the extended family, cocktails are part of the experience.
Brunch cocktails have evolved beyond the classic Mimosa. This leisurely meal is often about catching up with friends and family over eggs Benedict and other rich dishes. Thus, the best drink pairings are low in alcohol.
Especially for home entertaining, it’s all about pitchers that include colorful fresh fruit (and sometimes veggies). Cocktails with effervescent, bright flavors gently wake your palate and won’t tank your day.
Light, fresh drinks are “perfect for lazy Sundays amongst friends,” says Kevin Delk, owner of Beatrice & Woodsley, a Denver restaurant that frequently lands on top brunch lists with its “cabin in the woods” vibe.
The ideal daytime drink, he says, is playful and well balanced. Wine and apéritifs help keep things on an even but festive level.
A perfect example of a one such “playful” cocktail is B&W’s bubbly Brunchapuncha, made with a French press.
Lower-octane libations are also versatile and food-friendly. So go ahead and make that over-the-top egg strata recipe. We can’t guarantee that these gorgeous drinks won’t steal the spotlight, but they won’t deter guests from taking a second lap at the buffet.
Courtesy Dylan Holcomb, bartender, Beatrice & Woodsley, Denver
If you have a French coffee press, break it out for this fresh, colorful punch. “Pressing down on the French press will bring out even more cucumber, cantaloupe and mint flavors, creating an even richer drink,” says Kevin Delk, owner of Denver’s woodland-inspired Beatrice & Woodsley. No press? No problem. You can build this bubbly libation in a pitcher.
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- 8 slices cucumber, divided (plus additional for garnish)
- 8 cantaloupe balls; plus additional for garnish
- 2–3 mint sprigs, plus additional mint leaves
- 4 ounces vodka
- 2 ounces ginger liqueur
- 4 ounces fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- Prosecco, to top
Combine sugar with 5 tablespoons water in saucepan over medium heat, and cook until dissolved. Set aside to cool.
Put 4 slices of cucumber, 4 cantaloupe balls, the mint sprigs and ice in large French press or pitcher. Set aside.
In cocktail shaker, muddle remaining cucumber slices, cantaloupe balls and mint leaves. Add the vodka, ginger liqueur, simple syrup, lemon juice and ice. Shake well, and strain into the French press or pitcher. Top with Prosecco.
Pour into Collins glasses (if using a French press, you may need to scoop additional ice into each glass first). Garnish each drink with a cucumber slice and melon ball. Serves 6.
• The tradition of a late-morning meal began during the late 1800s in the United Kingdom as the “hunt breakfast,” according to Farha Ternikar’s book, Brunch: A History (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014). Following an early-morning hunt, servants would prepare a feast of meats caught that day for the hunting party, resulting in a later-than-usual eating time.
• The word “brunch” first appeared in print in an 1895 article in Hunter’s Weekly. In “Brunch: A Plea,” British author Guy Beringer wrote: “Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It is talk compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.
Adapted from The Bloody Mary, by Brian Bartels (Ten Speed Press, 2017)
Break out the juicer for this light, bright version of the classic Bloody. Thanks to a tropical mix of pineapple and coconut water, this is a bit sweeter than the typical Bloody Mary, but it’s not cloying. A generous dose of black pepper adds a mouthwatering edge.
- 2½ ounces Pirate Mary Mix (below)
- 1½ ounces Banks 5 Island Rum
- 4 turns fresh-ground pepper
- 3 dashes Bitter Truth Celery Bitters
- Pineapple leaf, for garnish
In cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients (except garnishes) with ice. Shake well, and strain into rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish. Serves 1.
- 10 ounces coconut water
- 10 ounces yellow tomato juice
- 4½ ounces fresh pineapple juice
Combine all ingredients in large pitcher. Refrigerate in sealed container for up to 2 days. Makes 3 cups, enough for 10 drinks.
• In America, brunch was called the “varsity meal” for its association with (usually hungover) college students.
• The boozy brunch kicked off during the Prohibition years. The upper crust, who had access to plenty of illicit alcohol, would typically enjoy a leisurely, decadent meal the morning after a night of drinking. In a private home or club, there was no restriction against pouring bubbly (or bootleg vodka) into your orange juice, Mimosa-style, to ease that pesky hangover.
• Brunch began to catch on in the United States in the 1930s. Cookbooks and newspapers started to give the concept momentum. Not everyone was a fan, though. “At all events, let me implore you not to call your breakfast, at no matter what hour, a brunch,” wrote etiquette expert Emily Post in a 1936 column.
• Chicago was famed for popularizing brunch, as movie stars would stop over in the Windy City for a break during cross-country railway treks. Noted Sunday brunchers at The Pump Room at the former Ambassador Hotel included silver-screen favorites John Barrymore, Helen Hayes and Clark Gable.
• After World War II, hotels became champions of the fancy brunch. Most restaurants were closed on Sundays and church attendance was on the decline. Restaurants hopped on the bandwagon much later.
Ideal for those who can’t decide between coffee or a cocktail, this deliciously bittersweet Negroni variation substitutes cold-brew coffee for gin. Schaffner, bar manager for Butterjoint and the soon-to-open Pie for Breakfast, prefers to make cold brew with locally roasted beans from Commonplace Coffee. Bottled cold brew can be substituted.
- 1 ounce cold-brew coffee
- 1 ounce Campari
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- Orange twist, for garnish
In mixing glass, combine all ingredients (except garnish) with ice. Stir to chill, then strain into rocks glass, over ice if you like. Garnish with orange twist. Serves 1.
To serve a group, this drink can be premixed (without ice) and stored in a tightly capped bottle. One cup of each ingredient should serve 8 people. When ready to serve, pour into individual glasses over ice, then garnish each glass.
Courtesy Gabe Orta & Elad Zvi, The Broken Shaker, Miami
This punch recipe, adapted from Kat Odell’s soon-to-be released book, Day Drinking (Workman Publishing Co.), produces a mildly boozy, bubbly lemonade that employs rosé wine as a base and has a soft ginger undertone. It also uses Cocchi Americano, a bittersweet Italian apéritif wine made from a base of Moscato d’Asti wine fortified with brandy and flavored with bitter cinchona bark, citrus and spices.
- 4 cups ginger beer
- 2 cups fresh lemon juice
- 1 bottle (750-ml) rosé wine
- 1 bottle (750-ml) Cocchi Aperitivo Americano
- 10 dashes grapefruit bitters
- Lemon slices, for garnish
- Assorted edible flowers, for garnish
Add all ingredients (except garnishes) to pitcher or punchbowl filled with ice. Stir together gently. Garnish with lemon wheels and edible flowers. Serves 4–6.
- 1Otho’s Brunchapuncha Cocktail
- 2The Pirate Mary Cocktail
- 3Cold Brew Negroni
- 4The Friends With Benefits Cocktail