I'm planning a brunch this weekend and want to breakout of the standard bloody and champagne cocktail fare. Of course there are tons of great variations on both drinks, but considering the institution brunch has become, I'd like to add to the repertoire.

Some tips on pairing:

Bring on the citrus. Many brunch foods like pastries are high in fats so it's good to have an acidic drink that cuts through that taste and cleanses the palate. Any drink with fresh squeezed citrus will fit the bill - just remember to go easy on the sugar.

Focus on low alcohol. There are many spirits that make a drink complex and give you a lot of flavor without putting you out for the rest of the day. Try just a splash of Campari, Averna or Cocchi to fresh-squeezed orange juice or Pimm's Cup with ginger beer or iced tea.

Make it fresh. If there was ever a time to consider nutrition in a cocktail this is it. Most breakfast food skips the produce in favor of carbs, dairy and eggs. You can actually get close to a balanced meal by putting the fruits and veggies in the drinks - deceptively brilliant.

Here are my attempts at widening the menu.

Blackberry Ginger Smash
1 1/2 oz dark rum (I used Gosling's)
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 1/2 tsp turbinado sugar (varies on how sweet the berries are - mine weren't)
3 large or 4 medium-sized blackberries

In shaker, muddle blackberries, ginger and sugar. Add rum, lemon juice and ice. Shake and pour unstrained into cocktail glass. Optional: top with 2-3 oz soda water or ginger beer. Garnish with blackberry if topping with water or beer or mint leaf if not.

Mango Faux Lassi

1 1/2 oz gin (I used Hendrick's)
1 1/2 oz mango blood orange purée
1 or 1/2 egg white

To make the purée:
2 oz blood orange juice (about one orange)
1/4 of a ripe mango (or 1/3 cup frozen chunks)
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 tbs honey (I used orange blossom honey, which is sweeter and well suited for this drink)
1/3 tsp rose water

Purée well in a blender.

To make the cocktail: add ingredients to shaker with ice and shake well for one minute. Strain into coupe or champagne glass.

Notes: The shake of this cocktail is important (just like a Ramos Gin Fizz). You need to shake hard and long to create the viscosity that mirrors the yogurt in the traditional India Mango Lassi (I'm calling it a faux lassi because it has no yogurt). It's also great for making sure that the honey is completely dissolved into the drink (you usually make a honey syrup by melting honey down with sugar and water to ensure integration).

Salted Mint Lassi (for a savory option)
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup vodka (I used Ketel One, which might not be right. Perhaps an oilier vodka? Cucumber vodka would be fun here)
1/4 cup peeled cucumber or water
1/2 tsp toasted cumin seed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp diced jalapeno or ginger

Combine all in a blender reserving a few cumin seeds. Pour into ice-filled glass. Garnish with cumin seeds.

Notes: this is a complicated drink to get right and I fear it's pretty foreign to the American palate (or perhaps I just haven't figured it out yet), but it's ripe for experimentation given its numerous ingredients. So, this would not be my go-to brunch drink though I will continue to experiment on this exotic classic.

P.S. If you're making Bloody Mary(ie?)s consider making your own tomato juice by cooking down tomatoes and then running them through a food mill. If it's not tomato season (like now) use canned tomatoes, then puree and strain them. You can also use one can tomato paste to three cups water (that's basically what the bottled stuff is minus the preservatives). And don't forget the salt.

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