Brunch cocktail menus are dominated by Mimosas, Bloody Marys, and Screwdrivers, with rarely a drop of whisky in sight. And that’s a shame, because whisky-based cocktails can easily make for light, refreshing companions to your eggs Benedict and French toast.
“Culturally, it’s ingrained in us to think of whisky in terms of stiff drinks that burn your throat as they go down,” says Gates Otsuji, co-founder of Swig + Swallow and regional chef de bar of New York City’s The Standard. And when it comes to drinking in the morning, it’s taken for granted that low-proof, light drinks like Bellinis are best, especially since many brunchers plan to drink more than one.
But a whisky cocktail doesn’t have to burn or knock you over with its ABV. “Like any other acquired taste, whiskies reveal subtle aromas and hidden flavors as we learn how to drink them. And once you’re keyed into those nuances, you can evoke them to make drinks that are appropriate for any time of day,” Otsuji says.
Leading bartenders are creating cocktail recipes that tease out the fruity, spicy, sweet nuances of whisky—perfect for enjoying during a leisurely brunch. Mixing fruit flavors, maple syrup, even light beer, these drinks will take Sunday morning pancakes to a new level. Give them a try, and you may never go back to Mimosas again.
6 Whisky Cocktails That Are Perfect for Brunch
Bywater Spritz: Mellow and Spicy
“Much like the city of New Orleans, whose Bywater District lends its name here, this Bywater Spritz is a collection of seemingly disparate ingredients which fit together in a mellow and surprising way,” says Otsuji. “The scotch anchors the cocktail with pear undertones, and the gin liqueur provides a gentle lift. The Sancerre dries things out a bit, while the ginger beer spikes the finish.”
Fare Thee Well: Smooth and Tangy
“The Fare Thee Well is smooth, tangy, and features a subtle hint of sweetness from the fruit,” says Michael Loomis, corporate beverage director for Mr Chow in Beverly Hills, CA. “It’s a refreshing blend of sweet and savory—the perfect addition to a light meal.”
Knoxville Smash: Fruity But Not Too Sweet
“There’s nothing quite like fresh blueberries, and Knoxville has some of the country’s finest. It’s only natural that Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey pairs perfectly with them,” says Otsuji. So he created the Knoxville Smash. “Hints of banana and maple syrup fill in the picture, and help get your brunch off to a great start,” he says.
Seelbach Cocktail: Spicy and Herbal
“At first glance, this Seelbach Cocktail appears to be a whiskey cocktail, but it’s the first cousin of the classic Champagne Cocktail,” explains Kent Westmoreland, head mixologist at Windsor Court in New Orleans. “It’s spicy and effervescent, with herbal and floral notes bubbling over the rye. All of these qualities make it a satisfying addition to brunch.”
The Rambler: Fresh and Spicy
“The Rambler is one of our guests’ favorite go-to cocktails for brunch,” says Eric Marx, co-owner of the Wayfarer in New York City, whose team created the recipe. “Ginger and mint are ideal flavor pairings for whiskey, and the Abita Light finishes the cocktail just right to make it easy to drink and ideal for any time of year.”
Friendly Persuasion: Smooth and Easy
“Looking for that hair-of-the-dog after a night of Boulevardiers? This Friendly Persuasion is as glorious as the night before, but as easy-going as the morning after,” says Otsuji.