Cocktails are a key element of any brunch program. People tend to be particular about their Bloody Marys, serious about their sparkling cocktails, and there’s an entire contingent of customers who are all about creative coffee beverages. Operators have to strike a balance between matching their cocktails to their concept and food, and delivering on creative options for their guests.
The Bloody Mary is synonymous with brunch. Just like pizza plays well with beer, Bloody Marys just “go” with brunch foods. Many people choose their brunch spots based upon the quality of their Bloody Marys, meaning your bartenders had better be on point when it comes to building this iconic cocktail. Whether you choose to make your own Bloody Mary mix complete with a signature secret ingredient (or ingredients) or choose to carry one or two from your distributors, it has to be great. Your mix is one component on which you simply cannot skimp. In fact, if you really want to impress, fresh press yellow tomatoes. To enhance the experience and fully engage your guests, create a Bloody Mary bar and allow your customers to come up with bespoke creations. The sky is the limit, with ingredients ranging from the traditional to the bizarre.
If the Bloody Mary is the undisputed queen mother of brunch, the Mimosa is king. And sure, you could just make them with cheap bubbly and orange juice, but why not step it up? Taking the Mimosa to the next level doesn’t mean you have to make it with hand-squeezed, locally sourced organic orange juice and Dom Perignon or vintage Perrier-Jouët, although you could certainly do so if your customer base will sustain such builds. Instead, consider using interesting sparklers that attract curious and adventurous guests. Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy, and Cremant from France are all affordable and exciting alternatives to the standard Champagne and low-quality sparkling Mimosas most guests expect.
Another sparkling cocktail popular with the brunch crowd is the Bellini. Traditionally made with Prosecco and peach nectar or purée (and sometimes a few drops of raspberry for color), the drink is pink and gets its name from the color of a toga worn by a saint in a painting done by Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini. Not only can you replace the Prosecco with Champagne, Cava, Cremant, and other sparkling wines, the white peaches that are normally used in Bellinis can be replaced with strawberries, rhubarb, mangoes, and oranges. A Bellini can also be made with a touch of Aperol, depending on the flavor profile you’re attempting to achieve.
You don’t have to stick to the classics when coming up with your brunch cocktails. The Moscow Mule, as we all know, has been insanely popular as of late. With that popularity comes an expectation of playful, sophisticated and elegant variations. Mezcal and even Fernet Branca have both enjoyed roles as base Mule spirits, and everything from melons to carrots to prickly pears have been tapped to co-star with ginger beer, ginger soda and ginger syrup. You may find yourself surprised by the number of fruits, vegetables and spirits that pair well with ginger beer, so consider your brunch food menu and come up with Mules that will complement it. Other cocktails to consider and experiment with are Margaritas, Mojitos, and punches. Again, the standards are great but try to come up with your own versions that will complement your food program.