Brunch drinks tend to run along familiar lines: the Bloody Mary, the Bellini, the Mimosa. Sometimes you'll see a Greyhound or a Salty Dog. So we were pumped to taste some fresh spins on brunch cocktails recently at Southpaw BBQ in San Francisco's Mission district. Barman and co-owner Edward Calhoun (formerly behind the bar at 25 Lusk) whips up refreshing daytime sippers that are meant to be easy drinking. "These drinks should help you on your way to cure what ails you," he said.
Some of Calhoun's drinks are ambitious—he serves a roasted tomatillo Bloody Mary called the Eva Green that's bright and tart, with a touch of cilantro, fresh apple juice, and cucumber juice, spiced with a bit of homemade habanero tincture. What really sets this drink apart, though, is a delicate smoky flavor from barbecue pork-infused vodka. Calhoun uses a basic fatwashing process similar to the one discussed here; half a cup of rendered pork fat from the Southpaw smoker goes in a liter of vodka which sits overnight at room temperature, and then solidifies in the freezer. "Vodka's a blank slate," says Calhoun. "To do this with whiskey just feels a little disrespectful to the work and time that went into making the spirit."
In case you're not up for fatwashing your vodka this weekend, Calhoun offers 3 easy recipes for fresh brunch cocktails to make at home. There's a tangy beer-based mimosa for lovers of hops, a sangria-like punch with a touch of Root liquor, and a spiked sweet tea made without gross sweet-tea flavored vodkas.
"A bar down the street does a beer mimosa with cheap lager and grapefruit juice," said Calhoun, and that inspired the efforts at Southpaw to create "a great beer mimosa that doesn't deflate how wonderful the beer is on its own." Calhoun's version starts with Ninkasi Tricerahops, an aggressive double IPA with 8.8% ABV, but you could use any intense IPA as your base. "The fresh grapefruit juice and the hops harmonize so nicely," says Calhoun as he stirs the two together. Plus, the grapefruit juice lowers the alcohol a bit so you can sip it all afternoon.
Prohibition Sweet Tea
"There are all these bad sweet tea-flavored vodkas," said Calhoun, "but we wanted to do justice to the sweet tea we grew up with and loved." Though it's spiked with 10 Cane Rum, it's "not meant to be a rummy drink," Calhoun told us, just a classic sweet tea where the tea flavor is still present and lemon juice is optional. A simple syrup made from raw sugar complements the rum nicely.
"This stuff is a bit like sangria, and it's perfect for a backyard barbecue," says Calhoun, who suggests mixing it up by the pitcherful. Root Liquor from Art in the Age adds birch soda-like spice and sweetness to a simple fruity wine cocktail kept tart with fresh lemon juice.
2170 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA (map) 415-934-9300; southpawbbqsf.com