The Best Brunch Drinks (That Aren’t Mimosas or Bloody Marys)

You already know that the Chop approves of brunch as a lifestyle choice. We even endorse mini-brunching on the weekdays. There is one little bone we’ve got to pick with brunch though, and although another Mother’s Day has come and gone, we’re going to address it now, because better late than never.

To our mind, the thing that makes brunch brunch is the booze. It’s not the cuisine that’s served or the time or place it’s eaten, it’s the booze and only the booze. You don’t drink at breakfast, and lunch drinking (if you’re lucky enough for that) is markedly different from the Sunday Ritual.

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Our problem with brunch menus is that they’re dominated almost entirely by Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas. Now, there’s nothing wrong with these two traditional brunch drinks. They’re both tried and true classics to be sure. It’s just that, personally, we don’t really much care for either of them.

Our point of contention is that both brunchers and restaurants should be a little more imaginative. Some restaurants try to get creative, but end up being way too cute; adding okra, lemons, limes, green beans, tomato slices, rhubarb, olives, and anything else they’ve got laying around until your Bloody Mary approaches the absurd. These “house recipes” often look more like a garden in a glass than an actual drink. And don’t even get us started on the so-called ‘Man-mosa’ in any of its hideous variations. Gross. Stupid. Childish.

Instead of just offering all you can drink bloodys or mimosa’s, we’d love to see more restaurants coming up with their own cocktails for brunch. How about offering the first drink free, eh? Think that might get some asses in the seats? Whenever we’re awake and aware in time for brunch, we make sure to do our part to confound the bartender by ordering something he might actually have to turn around to make. Here’s five of our favorite calls for brunch cocktails.

  • The Madras. The Madras is a classic, and we can never understand why it doesn’t get more love at brunch. Orange and Cranberry aren’t ingredients you’d reach for immediately after dark, but if the sun is shining you can’t go wrong. We say pour it a little weak and don’t be afraid to have more than one.
  • Kahlua. You know those cereal commercials where they show the product next to a bunch of healthy food and say “part of this complete breakfast?” Well, Kahlua completes brunch. Skip the vodka, just put it on the rocks and serve it.
  • Pernod and water. Take a shot of Pernod, pour it over ice, and add as much water as you like. Since this is brunch, and not a Friar’s Club roast, feel free to top off that highball glass with water. Then sip liberally. Pernod’s bittersweet licorice-like flavor will remind you you’re supposed to be awake and help jumpstart your appetite. If the restaurant doesn’t have it, ask for Strega instead.
  • Campari and soda. Sure, Campari is bitter, but it’s bitter in a good way. Espresso is sort of bitter. So are a lot of herbal teas. These have their place at the brunch table, and so should Campari. Plus, you can make up little songs by rhyming it with safari and Rastafari. You’ll never be able to do that with a mimosa.
  • Anything with Saint Germain in it. Trendy restaurants love to sell you $14 elderflower cocktails on Saturday night, but come Sunday morning they conveniently forget all about it and try to foist off cheap champagne on brunchers. If we were in charge of the Saint Germain brand we’d be sponsoring brunch events all over the place, with custom cocktail menus, food pairings, the whole works. The truth is that it’s damn near impossible to make a bad drink with Saint Germain. For brunch, take some Saint Germain, something fizzy, and a splash of liquor. There are 10,000 possible combinations, and they’re all great choices.