There's no better place to kick off your weekend of freedom than brunch. Some look for the best food, some look for the best deals, but most of us want it all plus a boozy brunch that will give us the most bang for our buck. If you're seeking the hair of the dog or just some good 'ole fashioned day-drinking us industry folk have some vital tips to make a boozy brunch worth getting out of bed.
There really is no right or wrong way to brunch. Showing up is more than half the battle and luckily, it doesn't take too much effort to make day-time drinking fun and affordable. Of course, you don't have to drink at brunch to enjoy yourself, but if you do want to imbibe, you'll enjoy it much more if you know you aren't paying more just to get pleasantly sauced.
Brunch is a big deal because it can be a big deal for your wallet: most restaurants have brunch cocktail specials, bottomless brunches, and affordable eats to line up your stomach. Having bartended more than my fair share of brunches, I've noticed some patrons are missing out on a few well known industry secrets about brunch drinking. And the only thing I hate more than seeing people miss out on drinking deals is keeping secrets. With the help of two seasoned bartenders on opposite coasts, Tina Campos and Brian M., we'd like to gift our future bar patrons with these 10 tips for making the most out of a boozy brunch.
1. Know the Rules
Brunch rules vary from place to place: Some restaurants will advertise heavily about brunch cocktail specials and others aren't so obvious. Ask and you shall receive the information you're looking for. For instance, some restaurants require you to sit at a table for your bottomless brunch, but may require you to sit at the bar for cocktail specials. Others will have a bottomless brunch that is included with a handful of food menu items: you may really want the fried chicken and waffles, but the bottomless brunch only comes with the waffles.
2. Know the Drink Specials
Brunch cocktail specials are usually the standard cocktails we've come to associate with the meal: mimosas, Bloody Mary's, Irish coffees, screwdrivers and maybe a few house specials. You can usually scope it out ahead of time as most restaurants have their bar menu included online, but you won't find your go-to night cocktail on the list. Most restaurants choose the standards because they are quick and easy to make and in high demand. Unless you have an in, don't expect to make any modifications to your cocktail without a charge.
3. What's On Special Is Not All That Special
Whether you're sipping cheap cocktails or bottomless cocktails, you are likely not sipping top-shelf booze. Brian M, a bartender in Brooklyn, advises going with Bloody Mary's or screwdrivers to get the most booze out of a bottomless brunch, but be wary, "They are definitely going to pack more punch than the mimosa. Just keep in mind, that most places use lesser quality ingredients when offering these extreme drink discounts." So, consider if your bod has been known to reject large quantities of cheap alcohol before you commit and if so, stick with the sparkling Prosecco cocktails.
4. You May Have to Keep Your Commitment
Speaking of commitments, some bottomless brunches want you to make one before you even have your first sip: If you order mimosas and want to switch to Bloody Mary's after you've had a couple, make sure you ask your server or bartender if you can switch free of charge. If you're a friendly face that comes to the restaurant often, they may let you do it free of charge, but if it's out of their hands, you may end up seeing those Bloody Mary's sooner than you think when you get your bill.
5. Wait for the Rush
Usually brunch kicks off at around 10am and the best places with the best deals will likely have a line waiting outside. Things can get pretty hectic during the brunch rush which usually occurs before 1pm. My advice is to sleep through that rush. "When I actually go to brunch, I go at around 2pm when the rush has passed. Everyone on the floor (servers, cooks, bartenders, and hosts) has had enough coffee and/or food and is feeling good," Tina Campos, a mixologist currently based in Portland, Oregon, explains. And she’s right. You are way more likely to get better service after the rush because servers aren't frantically running around and that means you won't have to wait for your second mimosa. Time is of the essence, those brunch prices don't last all day.
6. Do The Math
There's nothing that puzzles me more than seeing three mimosas ordered at a table. ehind the bar, there's not much I can do, but judge from afar (something incredibly easy to do when you control all the booze in the restaurant) and really that judgment comes from a place of love: usually, the best way to enjoy mimosas as a team is by ordering a bottle of Prosecco with a side of orange juice, particularly if you're all having a couple. Not only do you ensure you aren't getting half orange juice, but you also save time on waiting in between rounds which happens when brunch gets busy. Plus, you're likely to get the good stuff and not the bottom of the barrel the restaurant serves during brunch. It might even be cheaper than a bottomless deal.
7. Sit At the Bar
Most folks will wait upwards to an hour, crowded around the host stand or outside the restaurant in the cold even when the bar is fully stocked with booze and free seats. Sitting at the bar not only gets you brunchin' faster, but you may even be handsomely rewarded come check-time. If you're friendly and ordering drinks while seated at the bar, bartenders are more than happy to reward you for your company. "You most definitely have to be seated at the bar to get a buy-buck [unless you are] a close friend or family member seated in the restaurant," Brian M explains.This is one tip that is pretty much across the board at any restaurant, but keep in mind that each restaurant handles buy-backs differently based on individual checks or sales per shift. "Once the bartender has seen you a couple of times, they will probably buy a round," Campos agrees.
8. Drink Enough of Everything
"Always have at least three drinks in front of you. Water, coffee, booze, juice, etc. That's the brunch life," Campos advises. If you're living the bottomless brunch life, tally up how many screwdrivers equal the cost of the bottomless brunch and definitely take advantage of free water — you'll definitely need it unless you plan on ending your day at brunch. Though it's rare, I have cut people off before 1pm and it doesn't feel good for anyone that has to witness it, particularly the grown adult that is wasted on pear Bellini's because they haven't touched any of the free water. If you want to stay in the game, water should be your go-to brunch companion.
9. Keep Track of Time
All good things must come to an end, including brunch. It's common for brunch-goers to remain past the time brunch is still being served. If you are still trying to keep your brunch momentum going you may end up paying full-price for a bloody that was once $5. Read the fine print on the menu on how long your bottomless brunch cocktails or cocktail specials are available. Don't be surprised if you're told there are no more bloody mary's—most restaurants batch these coveted brunch cocktails to last them through the weekend. If you're planning a late brunch, try to find a bar that has a weekend happy hour as well so you can keep the special prices going past brunch.
10. Settle Up With the One Who Served You
Chances are, if the restaurant is staying open, you won't need to leave, but wherever you are seated it's always a good plan to settle up with the person that served you, particularly if you're seated at the bar. The bartender is likely on his way out with a new bartender coming in, so they want to get out quickly and they may even be joining you on the other side of the bar for a shift drink. Be nice, settle up quickly, and you may get another round on the bartender or get in on some post-brunch shots with the staff.