Chances are most people leave brunch at the Carriage House (1700 W Division St, 773-384-9700) raving about the beignets, three oversized softballs of dough served with a side of coffee-enriched hot fudge. Or gushing about the smoked ham on white bread (something of a Benedict), or the bumpy biscuits smeared with honey butter. Us? We left talking about the drinks. Bartender Michael Simon had three goals for his brunch cocktails: They had to be Southernish, not too boozy and exhibit a complete lack of fuss. Somehow, he managed to make them sophisticated, too.
Carriage House mimosa
Mimosas aren’t exactly Simon’s favorite. They’re usually made with “not very good orange juice and definitely not good sparkling wine,” he says. “It’s one of those things that tastes good but makes you feel like garbage two minutes later.” So Simon’s version is more of a shandy, with Miller High Life replacing the bubbly and a shot of Buffalo Trace mixed into the orange juice. (Your standard mimosa is also available if you ask nicely.)
The Delicious Sour
A classic cocktail from the late 1800s, this applejack-based drink was originally meant for the evening’s cocktail menu. But “it’s really amicable and easy to drink, so I think it works for brunch,” Simon says. In addition to the applejack, there’s peach liquor, lime juice, club soda and egg whites, which are shaken until the cocktail forms a thick layer of creamy foam. (It’s the least popular of the brunch cocktails, but TOC’s favorite.)
Simon turned over Bloody Mary duties to his colleague, general manager Michael Velo, who’s something of a Bloody connoisseur. Velo purees tomato juice with house-smoked tomatoes, caramelized onions and traditional Bloody seasonings (Worcestershire, Tabasco), pours in some vodka and finishes it with a skewer of housemade pickles.