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SIGNATURE DRINKS start with at breakfast with Claremont Cafe's Jane's Addiction, East Coast Grill's personalized Bloody Mary and Tremont 647's Breakfast Martini.
SIGNATURE DRINKS start with at breakfast with Claremont Cafe's Jane's Addiction, East Coast Grill's personalized Bloody Mary and Tremont 647's Breakfast Martini. (Globe Staff Photo / Christina Caturano) Globe Staff Photo / Christina Caturano
UP FRONT

Brunch punch

By Jenn Abelson
Globe Staff / March 3, 2005

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Some call it a guilty pleasure. Others celebrate it as a cure for the common hangover. OK, so maybe booze with breakfast isn’t your first thought on Sunday morning. But Boston enjoys its libations, and lately even the purest breakfast fans are choosing spiked smoothies and espresso martinis to accompany their scrambled eggs. Brunch drinks have moved well beyond the classic mimosas and Bloody Marys, and restaurants are expanding their weekend brunch drink menus with offerings like ‘‘Champagne Pick Me Up’’ and ‘‘Corpse Reviver.’’ Some places are handing off the bartending duties to customers, in the form of make-your-own-Bloody-Mary bars. (In a slightly different twist, Spire in Boston just began offering tasting flights of four different Bloody Marys at its weekend brunch.) And Cambridge restaurateurs are still giddy over the city’s decision last year that allows them to serve alcohol as early as 11 a.m. on Sundays. With so many choices, it is obviously time for a road map to help you navigate Boston’s brunch-drink bonanza.

East Coast Grill - The World’s Largest Bloody Mary Bar

Sunday brunch is all about relaxing. But we’re not too lazy to play bartender if we get the chance.

The make-your-own-Bloody-Mary arrangement at East Coast Grill is a three-step process: Choose your vodka; select your base (plain tomato juice, spicy tomato juice, or Clamato and add your ingredients. This last part can be dizzying, since you’re faced with more than 20 options, including cucumber spears, roasted habaneros, fresh horseradish, barbecue rub, and whole-grain mustard.

It’s tempting use everything — especially since they all complement the Latin-themed brunch, with dishes like fish tacos and a breakfast platter with eggs, mango salad, rice and beans, and fried plantains.

But exercise caution. I once loaded up a Bloody Mary with so much horseradish that I had heartburn until Tuesday. Also, be wary of the small plastic animals that decorate the rim of the glasses. A pink giraffe once fell into my Bloody Mary, and when I recovered her, she was missing a leg — which I can only assume I ingested.

East Coast Grill. 1271 Cambridge, Cambridge. 617-491-6568 Brunch hours: Sun 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. A few words on the Bloody Mary bar: Slightly overwhelming. Price: $5.50

Tremont 647 - Breakfast Martini

Even the most robust imbibers can cringe at the thought of a martini before noon. But the hipster staffers at Tremont 647 – who dress in pajamas for brunch — pull off a breakfast martini that my dining companion called ‘‘sunshine in a glass.’’

The cocktail blends Stoli Ohranj vodka, orange juice, and Cointreau, and serves up the concoction in a large sugar-rimmed martini glass. The thing looks like a fancy cup of OJ, but don’t be deceived. The Breakfast Martini is strong, but it can also complement anything from the apple pancakes with homemade sausage to the breakfast pizza, topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, potatoes, scallions, and eggs.

As our bartender, clad in his flannel jammies, concluded: ‘‘It’s liquor. It goes with everything.’’

If for some reason the Breakfast Martini doesn’t fill your sails, try Matty’s V-8 Bloody Mary ($6.50), which bar manager Matthew Ryan creates using vodka infused with eight different vegetables, including habanero and jalapeno peppers. Ryan garnishes his masterpieces with pickled green beans, claiming that the vinegar from the beans matches nicely with the spicy vodka — ‘‘so you’re not overpowered by the chilies,’’ he said.

647 Tremont St., Boston. 617-266-4600. Brunch hours: Sat 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Sun 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. A few words on the Breakfast Martini: Citrusy. Strong. Price: $7.50

Tonic - The Bloody Bar

Even before I made it past the hostess, a Bloody Mary was on my mind. In a small frame hanging near the huge metal doors, the beverage was described as ‘‘the prefect cure for a hangover, an aphrodisiac, and good for your heart.’’

Tonic says it built its Sunday brunch (a $14.95 buffet served on pool tables) around the Bloody Mary, with six variations of tomato juice and all the trimmings for amateur mixologists to create the perfect cocktail.

Tonic’s Bloody Bar offers a choice of vodka and fixings that include hot sauce, horseradish, celery stalks, lemons, limes, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, olives, and jalapenos.

With fewer choices than East Coast Grill, it’s all about adjusting ratios. Plus, bartending novices are more likely to end up with a drink that actually tastes like a Bloody Mary.

Who needs solid food?

Tonic.1316 Commonwealth Ave., Brighton. 617-566-6699. Brunch hours: Sun 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. A few words on the Bloody Bar: Fewer fixings than East Coast Grill. Still fun. Price: $5.75

Claremont Café - Jane's Addiction

Jane’s Addiction is a feast for the eyes and the palate — it tastes as good as it looks. We were admiring the strawberries and blueberries suspended in clear liquid when a gray-haired woman suddenly appeared at the side of our small breakfast table.

‘‘What are you drinking?’’ she demanded. ‘‘I was going to jump your table for a taste.’’

Jane’s Addiction, named for waitress Jane Granfort, is definitely a crowd pleaser. It combines Sauvignon Blanc, ginger ale, sour apple pucker liquor, Cointreau, blueberries, strawberries, maraschino cherries, and slices of lemon and lime. The result is kind of a boozy fruit cup, minus the syrupy sweetness.

‘‘It’s nice to have a drink on Sunday with your breakfast,’’ Granfort said. ‘‘It takes the edge off Monday morning.’’

Claremont Café. 535 Columbus Ave., Boston. 617-247-9001. Brunch hours: Sat-Sun 9 a.m.-3 p.m. A few words on Jane’s Addiction: Light and fruity. Price: $6.95

Brasserie Jo - Kir Royale

We can’t lie. The Kir Royale is a lady’s drink. But it’s still worth a try.

At the upscale Brasserie Jo, where enormous bottles of champagne line the bar, the Kir Royale combines Deutz or Pommery champagne with Crème de Cassis, a blood-red sweet black currant-flavored liqueur.

This French concoction is rich, smooth, and pairs well with the chef’s omelets or ham, egg, and cheese crepes.

If the mimosa was the breakfast drink 20 years ago, the Kir Royale has easily taken its place, according to restaurant manager Riccardo Coluzzi.

‘‘It’s a little classier, a little more interesting,’’ Coluzzi said. ‘‘It’s the new breakfast drink.’’

Brasserie Jo at the Colonnade Hotel, 120 Huntington Ave., Boston. 617-425-3240. Brunch hours: Sat and Sun noon-3 p.m. A few words on the Kir Royale: Decadent. Sweet. Price: $7

Christopher’s - Sunrise Smoothie

Who says brunch cocktails aren’t good for you? At Christopher’s, the Sunrise Smoothie features what the restaurant calls a ‘‘tempting, thick, healthy blend of fresh strawberries, bananas, and orange juice.’’ For a quick trip to the Caribbean during these harsh winter days, Christopher’s recommends adding Captain Morgan’s Rum to the mix.

The result is a glass of creamy goodness that goes down quick and stands on its own. Be careful, though — you barely notice the alcohol. And order early, because these popular drinks can run out before brunch ends at the spacious Cambridge eatery.

‘‘For some people, drinking on Sunday continues the party from Saturday night,’’ said Christopher’s co-owner Holly Heslop. ‘‘And then there’s those who have no intention of having a cocktail with brunch until they see one go by and say, ‘Damn that looks good!’"

Christopher’s. 1920 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. 617-876-9180. Brunch hours: Sun 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. A few words on the Sunrise Smoothie: Smooth and creamy. Price: $3.95, $5.95 with Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum

The Blue Room - Nick’s Sangria 22

The Blue Room is known as a place where blue moods get left behind, and at this Cambridge eatery, where the khaki crowd rules, imbibing at brunch seems like the natural thing to do. So it’s fitting to begin Sunday brunch with Nick’s Sangria 22: a festive, fruity concoction that mixes brandy, triple sec, Crème de Cassis, port, red wine, cinnamon sticks, lemon, lime, cranberry juice, and fresh-squeezed orange juice.

This full-bodied elixir caters to all taste buds. The eggs with Asiago cheese and plum tomatoes bring out the brew’s cinnamon flavors; while the smoked five-spice pork ribs highlight the red wine. Both dishes are featured at the eclectic $21 brunch buffet, along with treats like grits, avocado quesadillas, and mango muffins.

The Blue Room. 1 Kendall Square, Cambridge. 617-494-9034. Brunch hours: Sun 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. A few words on the Sangria: Fruity. Full-bodied. Price: $4.50 glass.

75 Chestnut - Green Apple Mimosa

Samantha Miller scooped out fresh green apple pulp and plopped it into a glass. She poured in champagne and pushed the fizzy cocktail across the bar as live jazz filled the small Beacon Hill eatery.

Suddenly, I was drinking at noon on a Sunday. I began to ignore my poached eggs and the Dick Cheney look-alike sitting behind me. ‘‘It’s OK,’’ coaxed Miller. ‘‘It’s a day off and a treat.’’

The Green Apple Mimosa, made with Granny Smith apples, is lighter than classic mimosas made with orange juice and champagne. And it’s tart enough to cut through 75 Chestnut’s heavy brunch offerings, like its signature Eggs Sardou: sautéed artichoke hearts, ham, marinated white anchovies, truffle essence topped with two poached eggs and then smothered, of course, in hollandaise.

75 Chestnut. 75 Chestnut St., Boston. 617-227-2175. Brunch hours: Sun 11 a.m.-2 p.m. A few words on the Green Apple Mimosa: Tart twist on a classic. Price: $8.75

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