Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Rob Corliss
December 2, 2022

Savvy restaurant brands use brunch as a playground for flavor adventure, capitalizing on its unique cocktail culture and breezy, weekend vibe. Regular go-tos at brunch like coffee, tea and juice are at the center of a new wave of inspiring cocktails. And trending spirits not typically seen in the morning hours are getting “brunchified,” with operators leveraging their popularity while building them out into modern brunch cocktails. As example, look to the Breakfast Bourbon on the brunch menu at New American restaurant Adele’s, based in Nashville, Tenn. It features a sublime mix of bourbon (is bourbon ever not trending?), passionfruit purée and a pitch-perfect choice of sweetener: maple syrup. To firmly plant the drink on the brunch menu, a curled strip of bacon garnishes the glass. Menu developers are bringing in trending elements, too, such as florals, nut syrups, fat washes and anything with bubbles. Here are 10 cocktails that exude the essence of brunch, full of potential to shine even brighter with the application of gentle, modern twists.

1

BLOODY MARY

A minimalist approach, focusing less on elaborate garnishes and more on a layered base with high flavor emphasis, yields delicious results. Soothing and spicy flavors, a refined meatiness, and herbaceous or vegetal profiles provide a distinctive backbone to a modern Bloody Mary.

TRY THIS

  • Gazpacho Bloody Mary: Tricolor tomato-cucumber gazpacho + kale juice + carrot juice + citrus vodka + Sriracha + lemon juice
  • Bullish Bloody Mary: Charred tomato juice + beef broth + mezcal + hot sauce + Worcestershire + lime juice + Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs cheese rimmer

MENU SIGHTINGS

Soju Bloody Mary: Soju, McClure’s spicy mixer and Tabasco
Golden Diner , New York

2

MIMOSA

Mimosas are ubiquitous at brunch, but today’s fresh takes can add effervescence to captivating cocktail blends, as aerating the juice creates sublime texture. Dial up flavor with add-ins like specialty bitters, Grand Marnier or tequila.

TRY THIS

  • Blood Moon Mimosa: Cava + tequila + aerated blood orange juice + aerated pineapple juice
  • Floral Sparkler: Champagne + gin + elderflower syrup + lemon juice

MENU SIGHTINGS

Liquid Love Affair: Stoli Vanil vodka, passionfruit and pineapple, topped with sparkling wine
Harry & Izzy’s , Indianapolis

3

BELLINI

Understated brunch elegance flows via traditional white peach purée and prosecco. Alternative fruit purées update this simple, sweet drink with novel intrigue. Easy-sipping cocktails speak to the casual lighter vibe of the morning, pairing well with egg-based brunch offerings.

TRY THIS

  • Scarlet Bellini: Prosecco + roasted cherry purée + slivers of candied ginger
  • Blueberry-Lavender Bellini: Prosecco + blueberry purée + lavender

MENU SIGHTINGS

Strawberry-Passionfruit Bellini: Don Q Pasión rum, strawberries and Alexa prosecco
Carmine’s , based in Chicago

4

COFFEE COCKTAILS

With coffee already anchoring morning menus, and with so many micro trends within the coffee category, coffee-centric cocktails are well positioned to add charisma to brunch menus.
Build your buzz with hot and cold coffee cocktails that accentuate existing trends and techniques while delivering flavorful fun.

TRY THIS

  • Iced Coffee Cocoa: Cold-brew coffee + RumChata + chilled hot chocolate + ice + whipped oat “milk” topper
  • Dalgona Coffee Negroni: Classic Negroni + dalgona coffee topper + orange peel twist

MENU SIGHTINGS

A Better Morning Espresso Martini: Bourbon, Pellegrino Amaro, espresso and cream
Stay Golden , Nashville, Tenn.

5

FROSÉ

The frosé trend marches onward, nestling nicely into the convivial surroundings of brunch. The addition of crafted elements levels up the wine slushy, elevating flavors and generating dimension. Or use frosé to inspire eclectic and unexpected interpretations.

TRY THIS

  • Purple Dragon Frosé: Rosé + dragon fruit sorbet + açai
  • Tiki Frosé: Rosé + apricot liqueur + coconut rum + caramelized banana + skewered maraschino cherries

MENU SIGHTINGS

Frosé: Dark Horse rosé wine, strawberry purée, peach schnapps
Benny’s On The Beach , Lake Worth Beach, Fla.

6

TEA COCKTAILS

Tea-based cocktails provide a unique array of beautiful, differentiated floral and herbal aromatics, tannins and flavors that can’t be duplicated with other ingredients. Boost brunch beverage menus with spirits infused with tea, tea syrups and brewed teas. Engage tea enthusiasts by serving select tea cocktails in teacups to drive home the experience.

TRY THIS

  • Long Island Chai Tea: Chilled chai brew + vodka + Cointreau + white rum + Baileys + ginger ale splash + ice
  • Matcha Mojito: Rum + matcha + lime juice + agave + mint

MENU SIGHTINGS

Sweet Tea Highball: Pisco, Delta sweet tea and mint
The Delta , Chicago

7

SANGRIAS

Brunch is an ideal environment to menu mini cocktails, and sangria is well-suited for this type of experimentation. Diminutive, full-flavored drinks encourage beverage “grazing” and sampling during the meal. Skip the pitcher and serve a rotation of classic, Latin regional, spritz or frozen sangrias.

TRY THIS

  • Frozen Sangria Mule: Prosecco + brandy + ginger beer + lime juice + clementine wedges (garnish)
  • Winter Sangria: Cabernet + Hennessey + muddled cranberries + pomegranate

MENU SIGHTINGS

Peach Blossom Sangria: Ketel One peach and orange blossom vodka, pineapple juice, DeKuyper Peachtree schnapps and white wine
La Fisheria , Houston

8

SMASHES

This fresh fruit julep variation puts smashing/muddling center stage, providing operators with opportunities to showcase seasonal fruit. The smashing approach heightens flavors, adding texture and natural color throughout the cocktail. Will a smash + smashed burger combo make a showing on brunch menus soon?

TRY THIS

  • Citrus-Heat Tequila Smash: Tequila + lime slices + orange slices + Serrano chile slice + agave + seltzer + broken ice
  • Gin-Basil Smash: Gin + lemon slices + fresh basil + simple syrup + broken ice

MENU SIGHTINGS

Watermelon Wobble: Ketel One botanical cucumber and mint vodka, simple syrup, lime juice, muddled watermelon, muddled mint and club soda
The Lola , Glendale, Ariz.

9

HARD LEMONADE

Lemonade is a dream mixer, as it pairs well with just about anything, while sweet-tart cocktails match up nicely with sandwiches or savory items. House blends of spiked lemonade make for an easy-sipping, thirst-quenching brunch indulgence.

TRY THIS

  • Flying Lemonade: Lemonade + Red Bull + vodka + cranberry juice
  • Whipped Limoncello-Raspberry Lemonade: Lemonade + limoncello + half and half + ice + fresh whole raspberries (garnish)

MENU SIGHTINGS

La Pasión: Avión tequila, passionfruit purée, almond syrup, lime juice and splash of lemonade
Bellini Coconut Grove , Miami

10

SPRITZES

The spritz’s popularity opens the door for tweaks on its composition. Incorporate housemade agua fresca as a complementary base beverage, doubling down on refreshing, clean tastes and trend-forward appeal, yielding an invigorating twist on a brunch favorite.

TRY THIS

  • Hibiscus Fresca Cassis Spritz: Cassis + sparkling hibiscus agua fresca + orange peel + thyme sprig + ice
  • Mango Fresca Grigio Spritz: Pinot grigio + Topo Chico-mango agua fresca + lime pearls + ice + chile-salt rimmer

MENU SIGHTINGS

Ginger-Blood Orange Sherry Spritz (A Sunday Kind of Love): Manzanilla sherry, Drapo rosé vermouth, ginger syrup, blood orange syrup, lemon and club soda
The Ball & Biscuit , Indianapolis

 

 

About The Author

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ROB CORLISS is a three-time James Beard House guest chef with more than 30 years of experience that includes running world-class hotels, launching new concepts, working in top marketing agencies and owning the culinary consultancy ATE (All Things Epicurean) since 2009. Based in Nixa, Mo., ATE has an energizing passion focused on flavor innovation and is dedicated to connecting people to their food, environment and wellness. Rob is also a regular contributor to Flavor & The Menu.