Friday, October 15, 2010

Brunch Cocktail Alternatives

(Note:  the following article originally appeared on the Drinking Made Easy Web site, October 13, 2010)

Going out for brunch on a weekend can be a fun way to spend an afternoon (especially if you can find a Liquid Brunch spot that offers an all-you-can-drink option!  Hey Now!)  But sometimes, it can be more convenient (not to mention cheaper) to have your weekend brunch at home.  If you’re thinking about having an at-home brunch but want something other than the standard fare such as a Mimosa or Bloody Mary, maybe it’s time to consider suggestions for alternative brunch cocktails (and their recipes).

The Bellini

If you’re a fan of Mimosas, then there’s a good chance you might just appreciate something called The Bellini because it’s simply a fruit juice mixed with a sparkling wine (preferably, a Prosecco, keeping with its Italian origin).  The history of The Bellini dates back centuries; an article from The L Magazine claims that The Bellini is “a collaboration between Venetian bartender Giuseppe Cipriani and Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini, whose pink-robed figure evoked the mixologist’s fruitful concoction”.

According to the Web site Shot Drinks , one recipe for The Bellini is as follows:
  • 3 oz.  Peaches
  • Dash Lemon Juice
  • Maraschino Liqueur
  • Champagne
Mixing Directions:

Puree ripe peaches in a blender and spoon into a large, chilled wine goblet. Sprinkle with lemon juice and sweeten with maraschino liqueur. Fill with ice cold champagne.

Now, I think we can agree that using fresh fruit in any cocktail versus using a canned or bottled juice most certainly improves its taste.  The problem here, however, is that the mere thought of pureeing peaches sounds like a bit too much work for me to do on a Sunday morning (especially if I’m hung-over from the night before – but let’s not even go there … at least for now).  For another thing, I’m not entirely sure that either the lemon juice or Maraschino liqueur are absolutely necessary as the Maraschino mixed with the peaches could result in a super-sweet drink (which may be what you want – as with any recipe, use your own taste buds as your guide).  It is with that in mind that I suggest you check out this video for an even simpler recipe:

The Kir Royale

This one is also a very sweet tasting brunch cocktail, distinguished by its unique hue due to the inclusion of one of its ingredients.  The Great Cocktails Web site attributes something of a swashbuckling story to the origin of this tincture:
The German soldiers who ransacked a French village's supply of wine didn't know what they were starting. The villagers weren't going to give up their precious wine that easily! 

A rescue party led by Canon Felix Kir, the local priest, brought about the derailment of the train carrying the soldiers and the wine, thus allowing the villagers to take back what was rightfully theirs.
For this deed of heroism, it's said that the villagers created and named the Kir in the priest's honour.

An alternative version of this story is that it was Canon Kir himself who invented the drink!  As is often the case with these cocktails, necessity proved a great inventive spur.  The war and occupation led to poor quality wine production.  Kir discovered that if he added some of the easily-available locally-produced blackcurrant liqueur to white wine, it would mask the unpleasant taste.
They give the following rather straightforward recipe for The Kir Royale:
  • 1 part crème de cassis
  • 4 parts champagne
This blackcurrant liqueur they reference is crème de cassis, which is what gives the Kir Royale that unusual color I alluded to above.  If you’ve got a few extra shekels bouncing around in your pocket waiting for an upscale spirit to spend them on, then I would strongly recommend you invest in a bottle of Chambord if you’re going to experiment with the Kir Royale.

Death In The Afternoon

Does the name “Death In The Afternoon” sound familiar to you?  If so, you may know it better as the title of an Ernest Hemingway novel about Spanish bullfighting.  However, it’s also the sobriquet of a cocktail that was actually named after the book.  Absinthe Online tells the following story behind this most funky libation:
A recipe verified in the 1935 humoristic celebrities' cocktail book titled 'So Red the Nose, or Breath in the Afternoon' edited by the famous journalist and author Sterling North and Carl Kroch.  Hemingway wrote: "This was arrived at by the author and three officers of the H.M.S. Danae after having spent seven hours overboard trying to get Capt. Bra Saunders' fishing boat off a bank where she had gone with us in a N.W. gale."  It seems highly unlikely that Hemingway would have drunk this concoction if given a choice. In most cases the mixture ruins both ingredients, which would have annoyed him. In this case, they most likely took advantage of the mixture to ward off the effects of a bad day in rough water, as champagne was considered a sea-sickness 'cure'.
While this one may be my favorite of the three listed in this blog post, I do feel that I owe you a rather necessary word of warning before you skip off to embark on a Dance With The Green Fairy …

This cocktail is not sweet, like either of the first two I mentioned.  Matter of fact, it’s rather strong -- like a real punch in the face!  Having said that, if you think you’re still brave enough to try it, then follow this recipe: 
  • 1 jigger of absinthe added to a champagne flute
  • Add iced champagne until it attains the proper opalescence (often known as “louching” or The Ouzo Effect)
Now, here’s my advice to the newbie:  add a bit of sugar (or some kind of a sugar substitute, like Splenda) to the mixture and stir (preferably, with a fork) – the sweetness of the sugar should offset the considerably bitter taste of the absinthe a bit.