There’s always an excuse to drink at brunch. A birthday, holiday, or simple fact that you survived the work week might merit a pour of something festive. And fortunately, there’s never been a better time for brunch cocktails. Across the country, creative, innovative, and modern restaurants put as much thought (if not more) into drinks programs as they do eggs, pancakes, and sticky buns.
A classic component of brunch cocktails is sparkling wine, such as Italy’s Riondo Prosecco. Named after a nearby mountain in the Veneto region, this bubbly is light, fruity, soft, and inexpensive — making it the perfect choice to use in classics like a Mimosa or French 75. The combination of the wine’s effervescence with the sweetness, bitterness, or fruitiness from any additional ingredients results in an especially refreshing morning drink to share with friends.
In the past, some chefs showed disdain for the brunch crowd — see Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential” for a few particularly choice words. Those days are long gone. Serious chefs and restaurateurs realize the benefits of catering to the hungry mid-morning masses and are coming up with diverse and flavorful brunch cocktail programs. Bartenders and mixologists alike are taking into account the flavors and alcohol levels that are appropriate for drinking before noon.
To compile our list of the 10 best new brunch cocktail programs in America, we polled staffers, beverage industry professionals, VinePair readers, and a wide network of contributors and social media community members. We broke our nominees down by region based on the James Beard Foundation Awards’ geographic areas. Our criteria required each restaurant sell specialty brunch cocktails, beyond beloved classics like the Mimosa and the Bloody Mary. Nationwide chain restaurants were not considered.
Here are VinePair’s 10 best brunch cocktail programs of 2017.
Forget excuses. What you really need to do is explain why you’re not ordering a second drink.
Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, RI, VT)
Location: Boston, MA
Cozy Coppa is an Italian eatery in Boston’s South End, the work of James Beard Award-winning chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette. Brunch here is always popular, especially in the summer when diners flock to the outdoor seating. The cocktail menu focuses on light, Italian-inflected concoctions, including a variety of spritzes. In addition to the Sbagliato, which is similar to a Negroni with its combination of Campari, Cinzano, and Prosecco, there’s a House Tap Spritz made with draft Alessio Bianco, lemon, and Prosecco. Of course, you could always go with the Bartender’s Whim and “see what happens,” as the menu puts it.
New York City
Sunday in Brooklyn
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Despite its name, brunch at Sunday in Brooklyn is an everyday occurrence. Options range from light (bone beef broth with ginger) to hearty (biscuits and gravy, of course), and you can order a cold-pressed juice to quench your thirst. But why not drink an inventive cocktail instead, from a carefully curated menu put together by the three industry veterans behind the restaurant. The drinks tend to have clever names, like Champagne Problems, made with bubbly, pomegranate, sesame, and grapefruit aperitif. If you’re really trying to deal with the remains of the previous night’s activities, go for the Sunday, Bloody Sunday, a riff on a classic made with mezcal, house Bloody Mary mix, and spicy sambal (add a baby High Life on the side just because).
Mid-Atlantic (DC, DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA)
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Maison 208 has a little celebrity appeal, as well as an eclectic new American menu — with just the slightest hint of a French accent. Chef Sylva Senat appeared on season 14 of “Top Chef” and, though he didn’t win the title, he appears to be doing just fine. Along with a variety of brunch bites like coconut pancakes and pastrami-cured lox, there is an impressive cocktail list, some light and others bold. One of the former would be the Chancellor Spritz, made with Prosecco, Aperol, and orange essence. If you’re in the mood for a slightly bigger bang with your brunch, try the smoky R.R. Cigar, which combines Lagavulin 16, smoked vermouth, tobacco, and smoked brandy cherry.
Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)
The General Muir
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Step inside The General Muir, and you will be forgiven if classic NYC Jewish eateries like Russ & Daughters or Barney Greengrass immediately come to mind. That seems to be exactly what the owners of this popular Atlanta restaurant and deli intended. Bagels and schmears fly out of the kitchen, along with plates of latkes and bowls of matzo ball soup. Keep it kosher (or not) with a morning cocktail, from classics like a Mimosa or French 75 (gin, Prosecco, lemon). Or choose from several Bloody Marys, depending on your spice preference — the Spicy Green Chile version includes a dollop of Cholula hot sauce.
South (AL, AR, PUERTO RICO, FL, LA, MS)
Galley & Garden
Location: Birmingham, Alabama
Chef James Boyce and his wife and partner Susan opened Gally & Garden in the historic Merritt House in Birmingham. The menu combines elements of French, American, and Southern cooking, although brunch definitely veers toward the latter with chicken and waffles, and shrimp and grits among the offerings. The South is represented as well on the cocktail menu, with classics like a New Orleans Sazerac and Corpse Reviver #2. There are also several bubbly selections to choose from, including the Megamosa, made with ruby red grapefruit and Prosecco, and the Poinsettia that combines cranberry, triple sec, and Prosecco.
Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Twin Cities are an eclectic metropolis, home to people of many different cultures and backgrounds. Lyn 65, which opened in 2014, seems to draw from this in its food and drink options, with the overall theme being one of simplicity and local ingredients. The brunch menu here takes you to the South with fried chicken, over to Asia with a pork bone broth ramen, and down to Mexico with a lamb tostada. The cocktails on offer are just as diverse, ranging from a Mimosa or Fire Cappelletti (a combination of Cappelletti, Strega, lemon, and Prosecco), to the Lil & Dil that combines aquavit and Pimm’s into a flavorful potion.
Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH)
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Milktooth doesn’t cast any aspersions about what it is — a casual yet elevated diner. This is immediately apparent from the menu, which takes classics like pancakes and waffles and pretties them up with the addition of sourdough, poppy seeds, Manchego, and grapefruit. The service here is all brunch all the time, but that doesn’t mean the drinks are an afterthought. The Bubbles & Blood section is of particular interest, with a mix of variations on the Mimosa like the Dreamsicle (fresh orange juice, bergamot vodka, vanilla cream simple, and a topping of bubbles), and spicy hits such as the Desayuno de los Campeones Michelada garnished with an oyster and a lamb “Slim Jim.”
Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY)
Location: Portland, Oregon
The forces behind Portland’s Ava Gene partnered up with chef Sam Smith to open Tusk, a vegetable-forward, Middle Eastern-accented restaurant that tries to source ingredients as locally as possible. Brunch here is an explosion of flavors and concepts, with a strong Mediterranean presence found in the Za’atar Biscuits and Young Turk pita sandwich. Nothing on the cocktail menu rings with familiarity, in a very good way. You’ll want to try concoctions like the Hazy Jane, made with gin, Becherovka, Verjus, maple, and coffee-infused arak. Or try the cachaca-driven Pump Up The Jam (made with raspberry jam, duh) that is brightened with a bit of cava. Every month there is a Generous Pour cocktail available — a donation is made to a special cause for each one purchased.
West (CA, HI, NV)
Location: Los Angeles, California
This Venice institution is not the new kid on the block, having been around since 1979 before the neighborhood was quite as quaint as it is nowadays. Chef Jason Neroni has taken the reigns and tries to keep the feeling of the original, while adding his own flavors that combine SoCal style with global concepts. That means brunch ranges from burrata to biscuits, and from farmer’s market salads to shakshuka. On the drinks side, there are classics like an Aperol Spritz and Rose Mimosa made with ruby red grapefruit juice, as well as aptly named cocktails like the F.A.D.E.D. (tequila and aperol) and the Ronin, a combination of Toki Japanese whisky and matcha.
Southwest (AZ, CO, NM, OK, TX, UT)
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Barbaro is all about the wood-fired pizza, even at brunch, although why not try things like the fried chicken zeppole and grits carbonara as well? Still, don’t deny yourself a pie just because it’s before noon… And throw in a drink while you’re at it! The brunch cocktail menu ambles from Rose All Day, made with Lillet Rose, Combier Pamplemousse, and sparkling rose, to a classic bellini that uses the house sparkling wine. And if you need some caffeine in your cocktail, try the Morning Ritual, which combines two types of rum, Fernet Vallet, and cold-brew coffee.