Along with hiking Great Falls and perusing Eastern Market, brunch is how the people of Washington, DC spend their weekends. (Translation: make reservations if you aim to hit a prime brunch spot, or you might regret it.) As far as boozy accompaniments go, Bloody Marys and bottomless mimosas are par for the course, but the city also offers remarkable variety on standard brunch drink options.
In the right shaker, brunch drinks can be just as imaginative as any other cocktail. Here are five we love in Washington, DC.
Pomme 75 at The Passenger
The Passenger is one of DC's darlings: it's a casual neighborhood bar that makes some of the best cocktails in town. Most folks don't think of it as a brunch destination, but they should: the same team of top bartenders that made your Rickey last night can be found manning the bar Sunday afternoon.
We love the Pomme 75 ($11), a subtle take on the classic French 75 from head bartender Alexandra Bookless. She takes the classic cocktail and injects a healthy dose of apple. Made with Daron Calvados (a French apple brandy instead of gin), lemon, sparkling wine, and Bar Keep's baked apple bitters, the Pomme 75 is citrusy and boozy, with a pleasant apple undertone. It's a fresh pick-me-up to cut through the richness of The Passenger's biscuits and gravy, and it's particularly good with the sausage that accompanies that plate.
The Passenger: 1021 7th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001; 202-393-0220; passengerdc.com
Spherified Aperol Spritz at Daikaya Izakaya
Remember Daikaya's spherefied sake bomb? Well, bar manager Eddie Kim has applied the same principle to brunch. His spherified Aperol Spritz ($7), affectionately dubbed the "Ponyo" after the Studio Ghibli character it resembles, is a glass of sparkling wine accented with a small ball of orange juice and Aperol. Like the sake bomb before it, it's meant to be sipped (not chugged) until the last swallow. Then bite into the sphere, causing it to burst with a citrus and bittersweet splash.
It's not like anything you're likely to have had with brunch, which is appropriate considering brunch is all but unheard of in Japan. Try it with Chef Katsuya Fukushima's take on the classic chicken and waffles—Japanese chicken karaage accompanied by a red bean paste filled tayaki (a traditional fish shaped cake) and wasabi butter.
Daikaya Izakaya: 705 6th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001; 202-589-1600; daikaya.com
Enter the Dragon at Birch & Barley
In addition to some of the best chicken and waffles in town, Birch & Barley's brunch menu features a whole page of Bloody Marys. The Enter the Dragon ($8) is a standout. It's made with Boyd & Blair vodka, tomato juice, and lime, plus wasabi and sriracha. The double shot of heat produces a slow, lingering burn and a subtle tanginess that complements the savory tomato juice. This drink's a natural pairing for a dish like the Roasted Pepper Omelet, which is also sweet and spicy.
Birch & Barley: 1337 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005; 202-567-2576; birchandbarley.com
Julioso at Estadio
You might not typically think of Spanish food as a brunch option, but Estadio makes it work by offering the lighter side of the menu for the brunch crowd. You can pair your brunch tapas with drinks, too. The Julioso ($9) is made with cava, Fundador brandy, strained orange juice, and an orange thyme syrup. It's herbaceous and more intensely orange-flavored than a typical mimosa, and a littler richer, thanks to the brandy addition.
Estadio: 1520 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005; 202-319-1404; estadio-dc.com
Half Smoke at Room 11
The Half Smoke ($8) at Room 11 is made with Sobieski vodka, grapefruit juice, Fever Tree ginger beer, and house made chili bitters. It's a tall and spicy take on the Greyhound, with nice tartness and a slow, subtle burn from the chili bitters. The Half Smoke goes well with the "Big Breakfast," which is Room 11's heartiest, meatiest dish. Consisting of andouille sausage, bacon, eggs, grits, toast, and fried tomatoes, it compensates for the heaviness you've foregone in your cocktail.
Room 11: 3234 11th Street NW, Washington, DC 20010; 202-332-3234; room11dc.com
What's your favorite spot for brunch cocktails in Washington, DC? We'd love to hear your recommendations in the comments section below.
About the author: Brian Oh is a Washington, DC based international development professional and a food, photography, and travel enthusiast. In his free time, you can usually find him stuffing his face in our nation's capital. Follow him on Twitter @brianoh11