There's Life Outside the Mimosa: 4 Non-Basic Brunch Cocktails

Sometimes I want a cocktail that isn’t one of the standbys. Sometimes I want to break out of my rut.
Publish date:
June 24, 2014
cocktails, brunch, day drinking, ginger, aperol

I don’t care if it is basic, I love brunch.

Brunch has several wonderful things going for it: It occurs during an hour that I can actually be expected to be awake for, it has hollandaise sauce, and it encourages day drinking.

I’ll admit that the last bit is the most alluring to me. Surprise.

When ordering a cocktail at brunch-o’clock, one is usually limited to two choices: the Bloody Mary and the mimosa.

It’s important for you to know that I have NOTHING AGAINST either of these cocktails. Both are delicious, but I like a wide range of options. Sometimes I want a cocktail that isn’t one of the two standbys. Sometimes I want to break out of my rut.

Sometimes I want gin first thing in the morning.

What must be acknowledged is that certain flavors are more enjoyable earlier in the day; I rarely want a dirty martini before 5 p.m., though I am sure there are exceptions. But I've been particularly obsessed with two flavors of late: the herbal, citrusy Aperol and ginger (a long-time love). I have provided two cocktails for each obsession, all of which are agreeable first thing in the morning (or, you know, noon).


True story: Aperol is responsible for the idea behind this post. They got my gears going by sending me a crate with everything I needed to make an Aperol Spritz (several, in fact). In terms of awesome things I have received for free, this is very high up there. Included within was a full-sized bottle of Aperol, a bottle of prossecco, several oranges, Perrier, and a couple of stemless wine glasses.

Even the oranges are pro-brunch.

Anyway, I had never actually tasted Aperol before (though I had heard it was comparable to Campari, and I incidentally ran out of Campari the day before this package arrived) but I was pretty sure I would like it. You know what? I did. It has a slightly bitter, citrusy flavor that adds depth to cocktails. It’s also not too bad when mixed with soda water, but that’s technically not a cocktail; a cocktail has to have three ingredients (according to Peggy Olson).

Anyway, Aperol lends itself very well to two brunch-appropriate beverages: the Aperol Spritz and the Italian Greyhound.

Aperol Spritz (via and a little instruction card that was in that package they sent me):

The spritz is what Aperol seems to be envisioning as “the next big brunch cocktail” and I can see why. It’s sparkly, fresh, and herbaceous enough to balance out its own sweetness. Plus, oranges are involved, and oranges are very brunchy.

You will need:

  • 2 oz. of Aperol
  • 3 oz. of Prosecco
  • A splash of soda water
  • Orange slice for garnish

Add Prosecco and Aperol to an ice-filled glass. Top with a splash of soda (or not, see below). Throw in an orange slice for looks and aroma.

I’ll admit that after one of these I omitted the soda water completely. Soda water just adds bubbles and Prosecco already has bubbles so what is even the point?

Italian Greyhound (adapted from the time I ordered one at Datz):

Here’s where the gin comes in. I’m not a huge fan of orange juice (the fruit yes, the juice no) but I love grapefruit juice. This cocktail combines my love of grapefruit with my love of gin and is rounded out by the Aperol, giving it depth.

You will need:

  • 1-2 oz. gin (Sean and I are arguing about what a “brunch appropriate” amount would be. Guess which way I'm leaning?)
  • A splash of Aperol
  • Grapefruit juice

Add ice to a lowball. Pour in your gin and Aperol (add just enough to make it slightly red). Top with juice. Stir gently.

Consume and be delirious with joy.

But what if you’re not a fan of Aperol (or grapefruit), but want to drink gin before noon? Do not worry my sweet, I have you covered. Not only can you drink gin, but whiskey as well, all with a little help from my new best friend, Lemon Ginger Brew.

I was perusing my newest Bon Appétit the other day and was delighted to come upon this essential summer cocktail ingredient. You can add it to lemonade, cocktails, and even plain water, but you know what I’m going to do with it.

Lemon Ginger Brew (via Bon Appétit):

You will need:

  • 8 oz. fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup maple or agave syrup (I like maple)

Pulse ginger in a food processor to a coarse paste. Bring ginger and 6 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 3 cups, 30–40 minutes.

Strain into a large jar and mix in lemon juice and agave. Let cool; cover and chill.

Once you have your brew ready, put it in everything. I have developed two cocktails in which I find it delightful.

Cucumber GIN-ger Elixir of Life (via my mind):

If you have ever read anything cocktail related I’ve written, you know how I feel about gin with cucumber flavors (positively), and the Elixir is no exception. This drink is refreshing like spa water so it can sneak up on you if you’re not careful.

You will need:

  • 1 oz. Lemon-Ginger brew
  • 1 1/2 oz. Gin
  • The juice of 1/4 lime
  • Persian cucumber

Muddle about half of a small cucumber in a shaker. Add ice and the remainder of the ingredients. Shake and strain into an ice-filled glass. Garnish with cucumber and lime slices.

Fruity Rye Drink (I'm bad at naming, help me out here):

Nothing feels more indulgent (to me) than whiskey in the morning, but neat bourbon or rye is not very summery or brunchy. I recognize that you may not care about being brunchy, in which case, enjoy your unadulterated alcohol. But if you want to play to the season and environment, consider the following concoction.

Don't worry; it still tastes mostly of whiskey.

You will need:

  • A strawberry
  • A peach slice, peeled
  • 1 1/2 oz. bourbon or rye
  • Prosecco

There's a lot of muddling involved here. First: Muddle the peach slice in a cocktail shaker. Second: Muddle sliced strawberry in glass. Fill shaker with ice, add whiskey, and gently shake. Strain into glass. Top with prosecco and garnish with strawberry slices if you must.

Careful with this one; it's not effing around.

I hope that one of these beverages will make it into your brunch rotation. I realize that your local restaurants probably won't have my concoctions on their menus, but they will have the first two options. Of course, the worst case scenario is a mimosa or Bloody Mary, and that's still a pretty good scenario.

What is your favorite brunch cocktail? Are you a traditionalist? Do you start every day with gin or whiskey?

Claire is drunk-tweeting sometimes @clairelizzie.