Minneapolis is a city of brunch delights: the unforgettable biscuit sandwiches at Sun Street Breads, Grand Cafe’s deeply flavorful huevos rancheros, the inventive savory waffles at Birchwood. Yet too often our town’s brunch establishments lack the same imagination and zest when it comes to the beverage next to the plate.
If cocktails are offered at all, they rarely stray from the commonplace duo of mimosas and bloody marys. These two have earned their status as brunch table mainstays, but are hardly exciting to contemplate, as the former is nigh well impossible to screw up, and the success of the latter depends almost entirely on individual taste.
There are, however, several intrepid Minneapolis establishments braving the wider realm of day drinking. Here are five superb cocktails, lovingly crafted for morning meals, that go beyond the ordinary:
Wake Up Beer — The Red Stag
Kim Bartmann’s culinary empire champions beer at breakfast. Beer cocktails abound throughout the brunch menus of Red Stag, Barbette, Bryant Lake Bowl, and Pat’s Tap, including such creations as the surprisingly refreshing Red Beer (Grain Belt & V8), the complex Black Velvet (stout and cider), and the zesty Bloody Beer (bloody mary mix and beer).
The darling of the bunch is the Wake Up Beer ($7), made with stout and a shot of espresso. The combination of these two velvety liquids produces a rich, creamy drink with enough head to rival most lattes, leaving you miles away from your expectations of drinking beer at breakfast. This drink is a revelation on a crisp fall morning.
The brew in the recipe varies slightly among Bartmann’s restaurants. Top billing goes to the Red Stag for employing the smooth, oatmeal-y flavor of Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat, but if you’re a dark roast lover, head to Barbette, Bryant Lake Bowl, or Pat’s Tap, where Guinness brings out the smokier side of the espresso.
Pairs well with: Brioche French Toast
Available: Weekend brunch from 9am-3pm
Kir Royale — Blackbird
For bubbly lovers, there’s no better way to greet a sunny morning than with an effervescent flute in hand, and Blackbird delivers this pleasure in spades via their champagne cocktail list.
If mimosas strike you as overly sweet, plan a rendezvous with the Kir Royale ($5). A French drink traditionally made with crème de cassis, the kir royale is made with currant puree and champagne at Blackbird. The tart currant lays a robust base for the bubbly crown, and the slight chunkiness of the puree adds some personality. Zippy and sophisticated, the kir royale will bring brunch a bit of je ne sais quoi.
Pairs well with: Swedish Pancakes with Berries
Available: Brunch every day from 8am-2pm
Breakfast Old Fashioned — Eat Street Social
If a stronger craft cocktail is what you’re after, look no further than Eat Street Social’s brunch list. These mature, assertive drinks hold up well to ESS’s hearty, meaty brunch offerings, with nary a vegetable in sight in most entrees.
One of the most popular selections, the Breakfast Old Fashioned ($9), pulls off an impressive feat: it stars overly-trendy bacon without being obnoxious. A brawny base of bacon-infused Rebel Yell is smoothed out by the nutty softness of walnut liqueur. Maple-brown sugar syrup highlights the bourbon’s sweetness and Bittercube orange bitters keep things bright.
Pairs well with: Biscuits and Gravy
Available: Weekend brunch from 10am-3pm
Frozen Screwdriver — HauteDish
HauteDish is known for its cheeky playfulness — where else in town can you find table-side delivery of your meal in a can? — and this spirit extends to its lighthearted brunch cocktails.
The Frozen Screwdriver ($8) at first glance seems out of place: the vodka-orange juice combo belongs at college parties, not the brunch table, right? But the smooth housemade vanilla vodka and delightfully slushy blended orange puree present a charming companion to your flapjacks. Our table agreed that it was a dead ringer for a Dreamsicle.
Pairs well with: Sourdough Griddle Cakes
Available: Weekend brunch from 10am-2pm
(If you are looking for bloodies, HauteDish gives the drink its customary over-the-top treatment: They offer five distinct varieties and deliver your mary with an optional chef’s skewer, a veritable meal involving slabs of cheese and house-made sausage, pickles, peppers, tomatoes, olives, and a buffalo chicken wing.)
Caraway Shandy — The Bachelor Farmer
The cocktail team at Marvel Bar has crafted a lovely list of “Day Drinks” for the Bachelor Farmer’s Sunday brunch. The list mostly centers on gin-based drinks, including three different gin-and-tonic recipes, and also includes a pair of ambitious bourbon drinks (the “Coffee Flip” features bourbon, espresso, and a whole egg) and a brandy punch.
The Caraway Shandy ($8), however, steals the show. Honoring TBF’s commitment to Nordic fare, the shandy features aquavit, the signature spirit of Scandinavia, paired with lemon, honey, and pilsner beer. Refreshing and lightly effervescent, the drink doesn’t smack strongly of aquavit or beer. Instead, it tastes like the best sparkling lemonade you’ve ever had, with the hop-forward pilsner and the aquavit’s notes of caraway, anise, and cardamom adding terrific depth. The carbonation, lemon, and spices make it an excellent aperitif for tucking into your meal.
Pairs well with: Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Trout
Available: Sunday brunch from 10am-3pm
Bartender Matthew Voss was kind enough to share the recipe — many thanks to the Marvel Bar / Bachelor Farmer cocktail team for allowing us all a bit of brunch delight.
2 oz (60mL) Aalborg aquavit
1½ oz (40mL) honey syrup (2:1 honey to hot water)
1 oz (30 mL) fresh lemon juice
Shake the first three ingredients, strain into a highball glass, and top with pilsner (should be about 60 percent mix to 40 percent beer).