Mixology Mailbag Does Booze Brunch Best Brunch Cocktails Mixology Mailbag Does Booze Brunch Best Brunch Cocktails
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Mixology Mailbag Does Booze Brunch Best Brunch Cocktails

by Ken Walczak

July 21, 2011
What’s a great brunch cocktail (beyond the bloody mary or the mimosa)?  – Daytime Drinker, Los Angeles

Well, DD, just how drunk do you want to get during this brunch?

This being a booze column, I’ll assume that your answer is: a little bit drunk, at the very least. I suppose it’s possible you could be cultivating an interest in so-called “mocktails,” in which case let me say: Although “find me the best cocktail without alcohol” feels a bit like saying “find me the best car without an engine,” I’m sure I’ll get around to writing about such nonsense in a future column. So let’s put mocktails aside for now, and begin somewhere on the lower end of the Inebriation Spectrum.

Keeping It Together. Say you’re throwing a baby shower. (Throwing one, not attending one as the guest of honor. If that’s your deal, please see previous paragraph). Suppose this brunch is one of your first social gatherings with co-workers and you’d like to make a good impression. Or perhaps you're due to operate heavy machinery later in the day.

If that’s the case, I recommend something made with Pimm’s, Britain’s favorite pre-mixed gin cocktail. Pimm’s is only 50 proof (25 percent alcohol by volume) straight up, and the preferred method of drinking it dilutes the booze even more. To mix a Pimm’s Cup, just pour a couple ounces of Pimm’s and a lot of ice in a tall glass, then fill with an Italian-type lemon soda, and garnish with a cucumber slice. It's suitable for sipping all day while watching cricket. All month, if it’s one of those interminable test matches.

Versatility is among the many advantages of mixing with Pimm's. Pellegrino makes a widely-available Italian lemon soda that makes a great Pimm’s Cup, but if you can’t find that, ginger ale works just fine. And as the fine folks at 15 Romolo taught us here in San Francisco, a Pimm’s Cup can be elevated deliciously toward the higher end of the Spectrum by adding just about any base liquor. Pimm’s itself is built on a foundation of gin. Why not add more gin? Rye whiskey, too, is surprisingly delicious.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. My favorite way to extend the Pimm’s Cup to party-suitable proportions is this Pimm’s Cup Punch:

Pimm’s Cup Punch by John Gersten, from LUPEC Boston's Little Black Book of Cocktails: Namesake & Favorite Recipes:

1 liter Pimm’s No. 1

1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1 cup cucumber puree (3-4 English cucumbers, peeled, pureed, then strained through a sieve) 

1 cup simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, boiled)

Ginger ale to taste

1 ice ring and many ice cubes

1 sliced cucumber and lemon twists for garnish

Pour all ingredients over ice into a punch bowl 15-20 minutes before serving.

At my last baby shower, I served this punch to all but the guest of honor (for whom, yes, I made mocktails—I’m not made of stone!). I set a bottle of Wild Turkey Rye 101 next to the bowl to allow those with fewer obligations left in the day (or the trimester) to “Romolo up” their drinks. Everyone kept it together nicely.

Moderately Tipsy. Now let’s say that you find yourself more in the position of my rye-imbibing shower guests, with no office deadlines or machine rentals clogging your post-brunch schedule. Under those circumstances, I’d have to recommend something stronger. Which is not to say stronger-tasting. I like a good spirit-forward cocktail as much as anyone, but we’re talking about afternoon drinking here. A significant portion of the genus brunchcocktail is comprised of the species istherereallyboozeinthis, and for good reason.

Lately my favorite member of that species is a kind of pistol-packing sweet tea: the Sevillean. 

The Sevillean by Kimberly Patton-Bragg of New Orleans’ Dominique’s on Magazine, from Imbibe Magazine:

2 ounces bourbon

1 ounce Seville orange marmalade

½ ounce mint syrup (make a simple syrup with ½ cup of sugar and ½ cup of water. Remove from heat. While syrup is warm but not hot, add ¼ cup of fresh, packed mint leaves and let steep until they darken, about 15 minutes. Remove mint and let cool.).

4 ounces Luzianne brewed tea

Shake ingredients without ice. Pour without straining into an ice-filled Collins glass and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Four Roses is a great bourbon to use in the Sevillean. If you’re not down south, plain old Lipton tea will do in lieu of Luzianne, though it’s a crying shame. Overall, the recipe works well (and dangerously—remember its species) as written if you are serving a large party of brunchers. But if you’re going to make just one or two Sevilleans at a time, I suspect the better strategy is to ditch the mint syrup and make the marmalade into a syrup (use a little bit more sugar and/or honey, and cook the marmalade with the sweeteners and water, rather than adding it afterward). Gently shake the bourbon, tea, Seville syrup, and the leaves from a spring of fresh mint with ice, then double-strain over fresh ice and garnish with a slice of lemon.

Either way, a couple of Sevilleans will ease you into the day delightfully. So delightfully you may even consider skipping the sobering-up portion of the evening and just transition to the harder stuff.

Planking. Suppose you’ve been roped into brunching with family, friends, or co-workers whom you cannot stand. Maybe you’re not so much looking to recover from your hangover as you are continuing your bender. (Our motto here at Mixology Mailbag: No Judgment). I suggest you foreswear all of the tedious prep work (such as rolling out of bed) and go Full Harto: straight to chugging champers. Sure, it’s not very sophisticated, but it might just make you internet famous. And how many times has brunch done that for you?

Mimosas ...?! Adapted from Hannah Hart of My Drunk Kitchen:

1 bottle something bubbly

2-3 smidges Tropicana orange juice, from concentrate, or other juice in fridge—Did you buy any juice this week? WHY IS THERE NEVER ANY JUICE?—or Funfetti. Or nothing.

Place bottle on or around lips. Tilt. Fill remaining room in bottle with juice, Funfetti, or nothing. Repeat.

Are you looking for a "girlie" drink you can order without shame? A scotch that will impress your father-in-law without shocking your palate? In search of a two- or three-ingredient cocktail to upgrade your solo drinking from the realm of the Solo cup? Let us know! File your drinking problems in the comments, or hit up Ken directly at mixologymailbag@gmail.com.

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Mixology Mailbag Does Booze Brunch Best Brunch Cocktails