Brunch Cocktails: Beyond the Mimosa

December 28, 2016

In many places across the country, brunch exists as a formidable weekend ritual. As cocktail culture evolves — particularly in the Instagram era — what we drink earlier in the day is becoming at least as elaborate as the cuisine it washes down. Mimosas and Bloody Marys, the dependable staples of morning mixology have suddenly found themselves exceedingly basic. And limiting. There’s actually a treasure chest of flavors waiting to be unlocked at this time of day. Here are a few pointers on how to buzz up your brunch time game.

Getting Started With Brunch Cocktails

“The key to drinking before noon is to start with a lighter drink,” explains author Kat Odell. She wrote the book on Day Drinking. Literally. It comes out this April (currently pre-selling on Amazon). “A spritz is a personal favorite. Sparkling wine and amari are great ingredients to incorporate into A.M. imbibing. Bubbly wines feel lighter on the palate, while amari, when mixed with other ingredients, are both savory and not too sweet — while [maintaining a] low-ABV.”

Brunch Cocktails: Italian Greyhound // Photo Credit: Noted Media

Odell’s fundamental proscriptions are echoed at a number of weekend fixtures throughout Los Angeles — an urban bastion of brunch culture. At Fat Dog, for example, you can enjoy an Italian Greyhound. It mixes Campari and Aperol with passionfruit, agave, and sprouts. Yes, sprouts. The elixir that emerges is a crushable and savory adult-breakfast-smoothie. In Downtown LA, Justin Graham at Brack Shop Tavern uses Campari with a house-made strawberry/peppercorn syrup in his Strawberry Letter 23 cocktail. “It’s a great pre-lunch drink with a low-ABV, so I can have a couple without needing an afternoon nap,” says the bar manager. “While nothing is off limits, we love our spiked coffee and low-ABV cocktails to satiate our morning cocktail fix.”


As obvious a morning mixer as coffee is, only recently has it really taken off as a fixture in inventive cocktail recipes. At the aforementioned Brack Shop Tavern, they use a chicory-infused bourbon with cold-brew coffee for their Brack Shop Coffee. Up in Sacramento, Chris Sinclair of Red Rabbit works java into a daytime cocktail. Using Bulldog Gin and Corbin Cash (a sweet potato liqueur) he adds a couple drops of sesame oil to the drink. He then garnishes the drink with an unlikely flower petal on top. It’s an invigorating liquid pep-talk he calls the 3 Flannel Sheets to the Wind.

Brunch Cocktails: Brack Shop Coffee // Photo Credit: Brack Shop Tavern

If you want to craft your own coffee cocktails at home, Drambuie is an easily workable additive. The traditional heather and honey-laced scotch liqueur melds effortlessly into notes of light roast. A Java Royale is a point in case.  It is 3 parts vanilla-coffee concentrate, to 1 part Drambuie, and half a part Green Chartreuse. You stir and garnish with candied ginger.

A touch more elaborate, the Sand & Smoke is 2 parts coffee concentrate, against equal parts Drambuie and pineapple juice, with half a part of mezcal (we recommend Mezcal El Silencio Espadín). Shake and add a splash of club soda along with a few sprigs of fresh basil.  It is a fearless balancing act of sweet, smoky, and vegetal.


Yet another way to expand your midday repertoire is to imbue the very flavors of breakfast into the most classic of cocktails. At Yardbird, in the Venetian Hotel on the Vegas strip, Michael Silvaggio serves up such a drink. Their Yardbird Old-Fashioned is built off his own pork belly-infused Wild Turkey. Taken together with the Southern-style eatery’s signature Fried Chicken, Watermelon & Waffles, it’s in the conversation for most satisfying brunch combo of all time!

Brunch Cocktails: Yardbird Old Fashioned // Photo Credit: Yardbird

When it comes to brunch, there’s no good reason not to think outside the box. At the end of the day, the only limitation is one of physics: Keep it light, or you’ll be dozing off before dusk. In the perpetually-connected world of social media, it’s brunch-time somewhere and therefore everywhere. #DayDrinking.

Making your own brunch cocktails at home?

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