The culinary arts have never been held in higher esteem than they are today. Shows like Top Chef and Iron Chef have cast those proud men and women wearing awkwardly puffy white hats as the artistes of our time. And we restaurant-goers have enjoyed the results, whether it’s by playing lab rat to a molecular gastronomist or by helping Mario Batali realize his dream of eating an entire pig, nose to tail.
But for some reason, when this nation of adventurous epicures wakes up on the weekend, we desire only the same old thing. Eggs, pancakes, bacon. Maybe waffles if we’re feeling a little Continental. In a world of gourmet dinners, we are still keeping Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast on the menu (and heck, you can even get it for free tomorrow). And just as we are conservative in our breakfast foods, we also stick to tradition in our first drinks of the day. Which is why the Mimosa and Bloody Mary standard has made brunch boozing boring.
The majority of believers in hair-of-the-dog hangover cures opt for the all-you-can-drink brunch specials offered at many restaurants. Not only do these specials sentence you to an afternoon nap, but first they douse you with an unlimited supply of watery sparkling wine and OJ from concentrate or an icy mix of tomato juice and rail vodka.
Believe it or not, there are other options to wash down your eggs benedict. Some restaurants realize this, and are carrying variations on the classic eye-openers. Some of the best include the super-simple Bellini (a variation on the Mimosa, substituting peach for orange juice) or the Bloody Maria (in the cocktail lexicon, “Maria” almost always means you’re in for a shot of tequila).
Why not push brunch further, and add some even more interesting concoctions. For grapefruit fans, an Italian Greyhound (vodka, Campari, grapefruit juice). For the regrettable hookups, a Morning After Cocktail (there are many recipes, but the best consists of cream, black rum, coffee, and crème de cacao). And for the poor folk skipping brunch in favor of a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin, the White Trash Mimosa (one packet of orange-flavored Emergen-C poured into a bottle of Miller High Life, a.k.a. the Champagne of Beers).
I’m sure we can all think of a few other drinks we wouldn’t mind to get the day rolling. But next weekend when you wake up for a late meal, keep in mind the best advice on morning booze (which of course comes from an Irishman): “Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat.”