Beyond Bloody Marys: more brunch classic cocktails | Drink | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
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Beyond Bloody Marys: more brunch classic cocktails 

Try a Negroni Sbagliato, Pimm’s Cup or Brandy Milk Punch instead

I like a good Bloody Mary bar or bottomless mimosa as much as anyone. But in the spirit of expanding our morning-tippling horizons, here are a few classic drinks to add to your brunch arsenal.

The best brunch cocktails follow a few guidelines. First, they should be fairly low in alcohol — after all, you have a lot more day to get through. Second, big flavors are always welcome. Whether bitter, spicy or infused with coffee, a morning cocktail should help wake the palate. Finally, brunch drinks should be fairly simple. Who wants to bother making complicated syrups or fussing with fancy techniques first thing in the morning? 

The Negroni Sbagliato takes the classic Italian cocktail and lightens it up a bit, making for a perfect pre-brunch cocktail. Bitter Campari, herbaceous vermouth and sparkling wine work together to stimulate the appetite without going overboard on the booze. The cocktail supposedly was born when a bartender grabbed Champagne instead of gin while making a negroni (sbagliato is Italian for “mistaken”). A happy accident, indeed.

For a food-friendly pairing that will transport you to summertime in the English countryside, grab a Pimm’s Cup. Built around Pimm’s No. 1 (a gin-based liqueur that tastes like tea and spices), a Pimm’s Cup is an easy and flexible morning-sipper. Mix with lemonade, ginger ale or soda, and garnish with available herbs and produce.

Finally, end your brunch on a sweet note with Brandy Milk Punch. A classic at brunch spots across New Orleans, versions of the punch have been around for at least three centuries (Benjamin Franklin even had his own recipe). Though it’s a little boozy, a bit of this rich punch goes a long way.

Negroni Sbagliato

  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • Dry sparkling wine

Combine vermouth and Campari in a shaker. Shake with ice and strain into a flute. Top with sparkling wine. Garnish with an orange twist.

Pimm’s Cup

  • 2 oz. Pimm’s No. 1
  • Ginger ale, citrus soda or sparkling lemonade
  • Garnishes (cucumber wheels, lemon/lime/orange slices, mint sprigs, berries, etc.)

Pour Pimm’s into a Collins glass. Add ice. Top with lemonade or soda. Garnish amply and creatively.

Brandy Milk Punch

(recipe from Commander’s Palace in New Orleans)

  • 2 oz. brandy
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • 1.5 oz. cream or half and half
  • Dash of vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Shake with ice and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.


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