There are plenty of places around the country where the notion of a tipple before 5 p.m. would be met with a raised eyebrow—but not in New Orleans. Here, there’s a whole genre of wake-me-up cocktails specially crafted to ease folks into the day. At this past week’s Tales of the Cocktail—an annual gathering of spirits professionals and beverage enthusiasts—we asked a few of our favorite bartenders which eye-openers they favor, and why breakfast cocktails are such a great way to kick things off.
Abigail Gullo: Bartender at Compere Lapin, New Orleans
Breakfast cocktails are so great because we have a saying here, “How can you drink all day if you don’t start in the morning?” And I really appreciate that. You’ve got to get off to a good start and that good start should probably not be too strong, because it’s all about session drinking and being able to last all day—or at least well into the afternoon. If I haven’t eaten, a little fortification is good, so I love me some brandy milk punches. Otherwise I’m straight onboard the spritz, sherry spritz, aromatized wine spritz, Pineau des Charantes and tonic—that kind of train. Refreshing, a little bit of tartness, a little bit of sweetness, something that you can pound all day. Very quaffable.
Keyatta Mincey: Cocktail programmer, Atlanta
I’m a tea drinker so any time I can toss anything in my tea, it boosts my day. In a beautiful city like this where it’s a little steamy, throw some ice in there, your favorite tea, your favorite liquor, splash of soda, splash of lemon, splash of something. It all works together because you’re doing it for yourself. That’s your little slice.
Earlecia Richelle: Brand Ambassador for Grey Goose, Washington, D.C.
My wake-me-up cocktail is one hundred percent the espresso martini. I think it’s the perfect cocktail to just give you a little bit of energy and caffeine. It’s one of our modern craft cocktails that was created by Dick Bradsell, and he is an inspiration to modern cocktail creation. He passed away a few years ago, but he was out of London and he’s responsible for many modern classics that we know today. The espresso martini is super simple. I think the important part is to have really great ingredients. I love to do one and a half ounces of a premium vodka, one ounce of really great espresso—get a single-origin if you can. Then three-quarters ounce of a really great high-quality coffee liqueur, and shake that up. If you want to add touch of French elegance, add a little bit of fleur de sel—French sea salt and really combine all those flavors together. It rounds out that sweetness and still gives you a great punch from the coffee.
Ariel Neal: Co-founder of Causing a Stir, Chicago
I love brunch because there’s there’s no limit to anything. At one point in time you could have up to six different drinks and that’s just what you can do. There’s the juice, the coffee, tea, whatever. And one of my favorite drinks would probably be like the French 75 because it’s very versatile. Obviously we’re in the capital of good cocktails, right? And originally the cognac French 75 was done here, but I make one that’s really great with gin and passionfruit and a little bit of anything sparkling.
Lynnette Marrero: Co-founder of Speed Rack, New York City
Breakfast cocktails are really important because it’s like a little dose of medicine after you’ve been out having a great night and you wake up the next day and you’re just like uggggh. The corpse reviver was made for the thing to wake you up, give you a balanced drink with equal parts, but also it’s refreshing and sets your levels a little bit. Then you’ll have like three glass of water and two coffees. I’m a big fan of bloody marys personally, I like salt, but I think the corpse reviver is more generally appropriate for everyone because it’s like you’re not dealing with the texture thing. It’s refreshing: gin, Cointreau, maraschino, lime juice, yummy.
Alba Huerta: Owner/operator of Julep, Houston
I just had a cocktail at Compere Lapin that wasn’t for breakfast but it would have very easily been a breakfast cocktail. It was kind of a play on French 75 because it was effervescent and it had some passionfruit. It was slightly bubbly and very tropical at the same time. And it’s a kind of cocktail that you can just have several of. Keep going and eating and just have a good, mellow, easy, brunchy time. This week in New Orleans, sometime a breakfast cocktail just kind of gets people back on track. That seems to happen with conventions and food conferences and food and wine events. It’s not necessarily to get people to start drinking early. Sometimes you just need to get yourself back on track.
Anna Mangiardi: Bartender, New Orleans
There’s so many great ones, but brandy milk punch has always been my favorite. It’s a whole meal in itself, and it’s delicious.
Neal Bodenheimer: Owner of Cure and Cane & Table, New Orleans
I do love a breakfast cocktail—but not all the time. I love a bourbon milk punch in New Orleans style. I also love an absinthe suissesse. There are two different versions. There’s a version that my business partner, Kirk Estopinal taught me a long time ago. It’s egg white, cream, absinthe, sugar, and you can use creme de menthe or you can use orgeat. I love the creme de menthe version. It’s incredible. It’s my Mardi Gras Day cocktail.
Nandini Khaund: Spirit Guide, Chicago
I made one that I was a huge fan of called the Roman Holiday. It’s an amaro-based riff on the Jungle Bird, then it’s extended with cold brew coffee, so you get a little bit of caffeine and just a little bit of booze. It was mostly Campari and Amaro Meletti, cold brew coffee, pineapple, lime, and a pinch of sea salt to combine and de-bitter the whole thing and integrate the flavors. It was really good with a little bit of grated cinnamon on top. It’s lush and complex. I like bitter in general but the bitter is tempered by the pineapple and and boosted by the coffee as well. It’s not too strong in alcohol, it has the feeling of if you were strolling along the Italian Riviera in the afternoon—an Italian vibe of Roman Holiday.
I hosted my sister’s bachelorette party in Miami, and one of the best things I did was make sure we had a full day at the Standard Spa. All you had to do to be able to hang out all day as if you’re a hotel guest is to purchase a treatment. Before we got our massages, because we were so pent up in the morning, was order wheatgrass juices or ginger juices and add vodka or gin to it. There is relaxation involved in a little bit of booze that, with moderation, can really be helpful for the massage. Then all of a sudden you can get worked on in a different way.
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