It's an exciting time in Atlanta cocktail culture. Captain and Cokes, and vodka sodas of yesteryear have all but been replaced by thoughtful reincarnations of the granddaddy Sazerac, and proprietary variations of the timeless Negroni. Atlantans have access to, and are seeking out, more artisan spirits than ever before, while their bartender counterparts continue to mix and muddle away, taking full advantage of their patrons' newly evolved palates. But for all of city's progress on the home front, there is one area of Atlanta cocktail culture that remains in the Dark Ages: brunch cocktails. Few restaurants have chosen to push brunch's booze envelope further than Bloody Marys and Mimosas, but the ones that do have managed to come up with their own creative takes on the morning classics. So in celebration of the wonderful meal that deems it socially acceptable to day drink in public, here's a look at what cocktail enthusiasts can look forward to at 12:30 p.m. on any given Sunday.
The AT&T cocktail at Rosebud is a gin and tonic variation made with a house-infused apricot and thyme gin, and Stirrings Tonic Water. Named after its key ingredients, the result is a spritzy little number, with crisp, herbal notes and hints of citrus and savory olive oil. In addition to the AT&T, Rosebud's full-length brunch cocktail menu is brimming with well-rounded intersections of sweet, savory, sparkling, and still. The Russian Kitty serves as Rosebud's version of a morning-time Moscow Mule, blending lavender and lemon infused Cathead vodka with agave syrup and ginger beer. And for those in the mood for something a bit more on the savory side, The Crispy Cucumber combines cucumber juice with fresh lemon and champagne. And finally, perhaps the most Rosebudian of them all, the Orange Stillman, a neighborhood favorite that couldn't betray pretension if it tried. Anyone with a true mid-morning thirst — and nothing particularly important to do that afternoon — gets just what they bargained for with vodka, Orange crush, champagne, and fresh orange juice, served up in 32 ounces of mason jar perfection. 1397 N. Highland Ave. 404-347-9747. www.rosebudatlanta.com.
The recently revamped brunch cocktail menu at the Nook on Piedmont Park reimagines the classics without all the bells and whistles (unless you consider a meat straw in your Bloody Mary a bell/whistle, but more about that later). The Chimposa for example, made with Victory Golden Monkey ale, champagne, and orange juice, retains the fruity effervescence of a mimosa, but with an added layer of clove and spice. On the nose, the Coconut Screwdriver brings to mind Thai cuisine, small paper umbrellas, and tanning oil. Simply combine Pinnacle Coconut Vodka and orange juice, then pour over ice and you're there. And for anyone who's ever wondered what bacon might taste like in liquid form, there's the Nook's Breakfast Old-Fashioned. Made with bacon-infused Bourbon, muddled bacon, cherries, and oranges, it's now possible to pour yourself a glass of smoked and cured meat. Even sangría gets a modern spin with the Nook's VeeV Sparkling Sangria. It's made with VeeV Acai Spirit, muddled cherries, oranges, lemons, limes, champagne, and a splash of Sprite.
Even though we said we were going to stay away from Bloodys in this roundup, we think that the Nook's Bloody Best warrants an honorable mention at the very least — you know, like an "E" for effort. So here's what we're workin' with: a 16-ounce Bloody Mary served with 4 ounces of steak, one skewer of tater tots, another with peppers and blue cheese-stuffed olives, and then rimmed with a hard-boiled egg, garnished with a piece of bacon, and finished with a piece of toast ... gulp. 1144 Piedmont Ave. 404-745-9222. www.thenookatlanta.com.
While brunching at Apres Diem, just look for the section of the menu titled "Hair of the Dog" to find its collection of brunch cocktails. The Breakfast of Champions is a drink for Bloody Mary lovers in the mood for something different, but also the same. Comprised of Guinness, Jameson, and smoky bloody mix all served in a pint glass over rocks with a veggie kabob, it's likely that this cocktail really is the hair of the dog that bit you the night before. Full-bodied and rich, the Breakfast of Champions has just enough spice to make you wonder which burns more: the whiskey or the Bloody Mary mix. The Tuscan Icepick blends Smirnoff Tuscan Lemonade Vodka, sweet tea, and fresh lemon juice into an Arnold Palmer/John Daly situation. For fruitier refreshment, the Ciao Bella (Prosecco, St. Germain, fresh lemon juice, and muddled berries), or La Poire Perfection (Prosecco, Grey Goose La Poire, and pear nectar) should suffice. 931 Monroe Drive. 404-872-3333. www.apresdiem.com.
The Tio Santi is a play on a Shandy, which traditionally combines beer with either lemonade, ginger beer, or ginger ale. The Serpas version contains St. Germain, Green Chartreuse, Drambuie, fresh lemon juice, ginger ale, and Stella Artois. 659 Auburn Ave. 404-688-0040. www.serpasrestaurant.com.
The Usual was created for an H&F regular who preferred dry and savory over light and fruity. Simply, the Usual is made with white grapefruit juice, Amaro CioCiaro, Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6, topped with Cava, and served in a champagne flute. 2277 Peachtree Road. 404-948-1175. www.holeman-finch.com.
The Rise & Shine cocktail at Radial is made with Earl Grey-infused gin, grapefruit and lemon juice, egg whites, and orange marmalade. Egg whites give the cocktail a creamy texture that's balanced out with plenty of herbs and citrus acidity. 1530 DeKalb Ave. 404-659-6594. www.radial.us.