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The Liquid Linchpin of Brunch

8 places with A.M. cocktails worth waking up for

What makes brunch, well, brunch? Is it the size of the meal? The duration of the dining experience? The company you consume with? We would argue that the cornerstone of the great American breakfast is actually the cocktail. Sans the morning libations, brunch would just be a ho-hum late breakfast or early lunch. It’s that hair of the dog that makes the food that much more enjoyable, the conversation a touch more spirited, and the meal one worth lingering over.

We’ve rounded up eight spots in Chicago that are crushing the A.M. beverage game, plus a few more that let you BYOB. And if you’re brunching at home, we even convinced a few bartenders to part with their best brunch cocktail recipes.

Siena Tavern's "Build your own mimosa"

Siena Tavern’s “Build your own mimosa”

Siena Tavern {51 West Kinzie Street, 312.595.1322}

The Italian city of Siena may be a few hours away from Roma, but we think the saying “when in Rome” still applies here—especially when brunching. Look out for a rotating seasonal sipper and cold-pressed juices like Golden Beet Pineapple that the bar can spike with the spirit of your choice.
MIMOSA METRICS: DIYers will love ordering “Build Your Own Mimosas” here, wherein you get a bottle of Champagne or prosecco of your choice with freshly squeezed juices, fresh purées, and fresh berries.
THE BLOODY TRUTH: Siena brings the “Build Your Own Bloody Bar” right to your table with the option to order a Bloody carafe featuring Siena’s housemade mix and vodka of your choice with accoutrements on the side, such as Italian cheeses and meats, celery, hot sauce, and seasonings.
THE WILD CARD: The No. 2 with Grey Goose, blueberry lavender, lemon, peach, prosecco, and bitters.
ULTIMATE A.M. PAIRING: A Mimosa with the Caramelized Waffle, served with Nutella butter and Blis maple syrup—or anything off the “sweet” side of the menu.

NO.16

NO.16

NO. 16
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add 2 ounces Jameson Caskmates whiskey infused with dried cranberries, 3/4 ounce simple syrup, 3/4 ounce lemon juice, and 1 ounce pear purée. Shake and strain into a glass filled with ice. Garnish with a sprig of thyme.

Hash House A Go Go {1212 North State Street; 312.202.0994}

To pair with the “Twisted Farm Food” here are some pretty twisted (in a good way) brunch cocktails, including several seasonal options like a Tuaca Toddy—steamed hot cider with Tuaca cinnamon and whipped cream.

MIMOSA METRICS: Three varieties, including the St. Mimosa spiked with St-Germain and grapefruit juice.
THE BLOODY TRUTH: Five options, all of which feature the from-scratch housemade mix. The BLT Bloody comes with bacon, lettuce, tomato, toast, and mayo.
THE WILD CARD: Spiked Hot Chocolate is just what you need this time of year with vanilla vodka, Frangelico, and homemade cocoa.
ULTIMATE A.M. PAIRING: The smoky spice of the BAR B’ QUE Mary is a great contrast to the sweet Big O’ Sage Fried Chicken and Waffle Tower with two sage- fried chicken breasts, smoked bacon waffle, hot maple reduction, fried leeks, and two eggs.

ST. MIMOSA
In a Champagne flute, combine 1 ounce St- Germain liqueur and 2 ounces grapefruit juice. Fill with Champagne.

Kingsbury Street Cafe {1523 North Kingsbury Street; 312.280.1718}

Everything is a work of art here, including the brunch cocktails. Kingsbury serves the classics— often with their own twists—plus inventive cocktails featuring ingredients like figs.

MIMOSA METRICS: Classic with orange juice and Champagne.
THE BLOODY TRUTH: The Bakon Bloody Mary is topped with a housemade mix and garnish of bacon, cheese, pickles, and peppers.
THE WILD CARD: St. Momo cocktail with elderflower liqueur.
ULTIMATE A.M. PAIRING: The Bakon Bloody with the Salmon Hash, featuring poached eggs, herbs, leeks, a trio of peppers, tater tots, and sour cream.

ST. MOMO
To an ice-filled glass, add 3 ounces St- Germain liqueur, 3 ounces Champagne, and 3 to 4-1/2 ounces club soda to fill. Stir well to mix completely. Garnish with a lime twist.

Local Root {601 North McClurg Court; 312.643.1145}

Local Root is all about local and seasonal, so it’s no surprise that their brunch cocktails are exercises in farm-to-glass. In the winter, they feature a Spiked Hot Cider with Vandermill cider, a splash of bourbon, cinnamon, and Xocolatl Mole bitters.

MIMOSA METRICS: Bottomless and dangerously delicious with freshly squeezed orange juice. THE BLOODY TRUTH: Balanced and unique, but not over the top. The bar combines a housemade mix featuring secret ingredients like roasted poblanos with the restaurant’s own private label vodka distilled from Midwestern grains. The rotating garnish often features cheese or charcuterie.
THE WILD CARD: The Corpse Reviver #2.
ULTIMATE A.M. PAIRING: The herbal, subtle oak notes of the blanco tequila in the Bloody Maria (with a Goose Island Green Line beer back) deepen and balance the Chilaquiles’ flavors and texture.

Corpse Reviver #2

Corpse Reviver #2

CORPSE REVIVER #2
To a shaker filled with ice, add 1-1/2 ounces Letherbee gin, 1 ounce Leopold Bros. orange liqueur, 1 ounce Cocchi Americano, 1 ounce fresh lemon juice, and a dash of Letherbee Charred Oak absinthe, and shake vigorously for about 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe cocktail glass and garnish with an orange slice.

Rockit {22 West Hubbard Street; 312.645.6000}

You may know Rockit as the place to be to watch the game or enjoy a late-night burger in a festive atmosphere, but it’s equally alluring by morning.

MIMOSA METRICS: Order the standard or spring for a Mimosa Kit with tableside bottle service, three juice varieties, and fresh fruit.
THE BLOODY TRUTH: A build-your-own Bloody Mary Bar with everything from spiced meats to pickled veggies keeps guests coming back for more.
THE WILD CARD: A spiked malt or float, like the Coffee Float with espresso gelato, Stumptown cold brew draft, and a shot of Evan Williams bourbon.
ULTIMATE A.M. PAIRING: Your Bloody masterpiece with the Hanger Steak and Eggs—the spice blends truly complement one another.

DRUNKEN MONK
In a tulip glass or glass mug, stir 2 ounces chocolate syrup into 8 ounces steamed milk until well-combined. Stir in 1-1/2 ounces Evan Williams bourbon and top with marshmallow fluff. If desired, toast the top of the fluff with a blowtorch.

Nookies {multiple locations}

At Nookies Edgewater—just one of the restaurant’s four locations across the city—you can enjoy the house cocktails with your brunch. At the other three Nookies locations on Halsted and in Old Town, BYOB is the name of the game, so bring your own spirits or Champagne (Nookies can provide ice buckets and glassware) to spike the virgin options on Nookies’ beverage menu, like coffee, fresh grapefruit juice, or hot chocolate.

MIMOSA METRICS: Nookies Edgewater offers an extensive mimosa menu featuring freshly squeezed orange juice, strawberry juice, pineapple juice, and other juices combined with prosecco and a variety of cordials. We love the Grapefruit and Ginger with grapefruit juice and zesty ginger syrup.
THE BLOODY TRUTH: Traditionalists will love the old school Bloody with a simple garnish of celery and a skewer of pickle, olive, and cocktail onion.
THE WILD CARD: The Radiator with Ketel One Citron, Triple Sec, simple syrup, a dash of bitters, and the juice of two fresh lemons.
ULTIMATE A.M. PAIRING: The acidic Mimosa cuts through the rich Paris Benedict with grilled brioche, poached eggs, Gruyère, cherrywood- smoked bacon, grilled fresh asparagus, and truffle- chive cream.

PIMM’S CUP
Muddle 1 lemon wedge and 1 cucumber slice in a highball glass. Fill with ice and add 2 ounces Pimm’s liqueur. Top with 4 ounces ginger beer and stir to mix. Garnish with a cucumber slice

The Florentine {151 West Adams Street; 312.660.8866}

Simple, high-quality ingredients make the brunch cocktails here shine. Be sure to ask about the seasonal sparkling cocktail, which is currently The Pomona, filled with prosecco, pear, and nutmeg. And as of December, guests at The Florentine can now order bottomless Mimosas or Bloody Marys with the purchase of a brunch entrée, for an additional $15.

MIMOSA METRICS: Prosecco adds an Italian twist to freshly squeezed orange juice.
THE BLOODY TRUTH: Made with Hangar One chipotle vodka, Zing Zang mix, celery bitters, and an Old Bay rim.
THE WILD CARD: The Bellini with Capasaldo prosecco, white peach, and peach Schnapps. ULTIMATE A.M. PAIRING: A Bellini with the Doughnuts—effervescence really makes these housemade ricotta fritters pop.

The Pomona

THE POMONA
Pour 1 ounce of spiced pear purée* into a Champagne flute. Top with Caposaldo prosecco and garnish with a lemon twist.
*For the pear purée, peel, pit, and roughly chop 2 Bosc pears and add to a food processor with 2 ounces lemon juice and fresh grated nutmeg. Blend until smooth and strain to remove any solids. This recipe makes about 1 cup of purée.

BIN 36 {161 North Jefferson Street; 312.995.6560}

While you may know BIN 36 primarily for its incredible selection of wines, the cocktails are equally as impressive. On the restaurant’s new cocktail menu, old classics like Manhattans rub shoulders with exciting newbies that are as good before noon as they are after.

MIMOSA METRICS: Flights of four three-ounce pours—featuring flavors like peach and pomegranate—rotate with the season.
THE BLOODY TRUTH: BIN 36 offers the ultimate Bloody Mary experience with a flight of four regional varieties, each in a five-ounce pour. With vegetable and protein-filled garnishes, the Bloody Flight basically constitutes breakfast. Here’s a look at each unique Bloody:

1. THE CLASSIC features peppercorn vodka from neighboring CH Distillery just around the corner, combined with house Bloody mix and a classic garnish. After you finish your flight, you can even go tour the distillery to see where your vodka was produced.
2. THE GREAT BRITISH BREAKFAST stars “a jolly posh shot” of Ford’s gin, while HP Sauce ups the authenticity. The skewer captures the essence of the English fry-up with sausage, bacon, egg, and tomato.
3. THE KENTUCKY SMOKE OUT is a “rootin’ tootin’” mix of Chef Shane Graybeal’s barbecue sauce, extra hot sauce, and Evan Williams bourbon over smoked ice cubes—no more watered down Bloody after a few minutes of sipping! The stout garnish includes fried chicken, smoked brisket, and baby corn.
4. THE IPA-ELADA is BIN 36’s tribute to Mexican flavors, with Tequila Cabeza, lime juice, and cayenne salt, floated with Gatecrasher 36 IPA, brewed specially for the restaurant by Temperance Brewery. A celery stick serves as the garnish.

THE WILD CARD: A fresh pour of BIN 36’s inimitable Cold Drip Sangría. The secret is actually a gorgeous gadget: the multi-chambered sangria tower. After the bartenders at BIN macerate berries for a full day, purée them, and mix them with Spanish red wine and Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac, they pour the mixture through the tower, which houses a flask of cinnamon, coriander, red peppercorn, and star anise at its center.
ULTIMATE A.M. PAIRING: That stunning Sangría with the Lemon and Ricotta Pancakes with blueberry compote and whipped mascarpone.

BYOB Brunch Cocktails

Chicago is also home to some fantastic A.M. eateries that may not have bars, but are more than happy to let you bring the bar to your table.

 Yolk {multiple locations}

When you visit Yolk, show up with a bottle of Champagne to combine with their freshly squeezed juices, such as Strawberry-Orange or Grapefruit for a Mimosa. The daily breakfast/brunch menu includes many perfect dishes to pair with your DIY Mimosa, such as the Pumpkin Swirl French Toast, Taffy Apple Crêpes, the Sweet Potato Hash, or the Tour de France, featuring a flight of French toast, including banana nut with peanut butter, sweet orange with strawberries, and lemon poppyseed with blueberries. A shot of vanilla vodka would also put a pep in the step of the S’mores Hot Cocoa this winter.

Whisk {2018 West Chicago Avenue; 773.252.9060}

It couldn’t be more convenient that a Mariano’s grocery store happens to be right across the street from Whisk. Pick up a bottle of prosecco or Cava to match up with the freshly squeezed juices here, like Orange and Grapefruit. Or, grab a bottle of bourbon or rum to spike one of the 20 different gourmet and bottled sodas WHISK offers, ranging from cucumber-mint, to grapefruit- pomegranate, to ginger ale. WHISK even serves up a Virgin Bloody Mary that you can make considerably less virginal with the addition of a shot of vodka from your personal bottle. That self-spiked Bloody would be the perfect accompaniment to the Poblano Omelette, featuring poblanos, black beans, corn, bell peppers, and onion topped with pepper Jack sauce.

Virgin Brunch Options

While we love brunch cocktails, sometimes all you want is a morning off the wagon. Here are a few spots that may not offer brunch cocktails or BYOB, but more than make up for it with their amazing food.

Stax Cafe {1401 West Taylor Street; 312.733.9871}

One of our favorite brunch options in the city is Stax Cafe, with its selection of “brunchies” like Mini Egg Tacos, a Bacon Jam Sandwich, and a BLT with a fried egg. Michelin-recommended for all five years since it’s been open, Stax also serves up a huge virgin beverage selection, including Intelligentsia coffee drinks like cappuccinos that can be jazzed with up with vanilla, gingerbread, hazelnut, or other syrup flavors. Plus, the freshly squeezed juices will help you get your vitamins in early on in the day—we’re all about the Strawberry-Orange, which would make a great accompaniment to one of the Stax Features, such as the Chocolate Chip Bacon Pancakes or the Brisket Benedict.

Marmalade {1969 West Montrose Avenue; 773.883.9000}

Or head over to Ravenswood to family-owned charming spot Marmalade, where you’ll find hearty savory and sweet breakfast entrées and super friendly service. Try the Marmalade Benny, the Fried Chicken and Biscuits, or the Azteca Omeletta with cranberry- Cognac chicken sausage, applewood- smoked bacon, queso fresco, and caramelized onions topped with pico de gallo and salsa verde. The sweet side of the menu branches out beyond the same old pancakes and waffles with options like The Lady Marmalade featuring house-baked brioche French toast topped with homemade apricot marmalade, maple cream, and lemon coulis.

By Maya Silver | Editor