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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Brunch Cocktail Alternatives: Robust and Tree House Go Beyond the Bloody Mary

Posted By on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 6:00 AM

The "Italian Hound" and the "B and B" at Tree House | Patrick J. Hurley
  • The "Italian Hound" and the "B and B" at Tree House | Patrick J. Hurley

The Drunken Vegan, a.k.a. Patrick J. Hurley, is a full-time barman at the Civil Life Brewing Company and cocktail enthusiast about town. He's an unapologetic drunkard, a vegan and a bon vivant, and, no, he doesn't think those last two terms contradict each other.

The Drunken Vegan loves a good bloody mary or mimosa as much as any thirsty, hungover soul in search of a soothing balm for the previous evening's debauchery, but here's the thing -- there are surprisingly good alternatives to these tried and true remedies. On a recent Sunday we investigated some standout brunch cocktails at Robust Wine Bar Downtown at the MX (635 Washington Avenue; 314-287-6300) and Tree House Restaurant (3177 South Grand Boulevard; 314-696-2100).

See also: Eclipse Bar's "French 75," a World War I-Era Cocktail Perfect for Summer Drinking

Over at Tree House, the cocktail menu offers some new takes on old classics, like the "Italian Hound," a neat variation of a greyhound which augments the gin and grapefruit juice with St. Germain, aperol and grapefruit bitters. It's floral, bitter and tart, the ideal Sunday morning restorative. It comes with a salted rim, and while it's a bit of a mustache wrecker, it's worth it. The "B and B" combines carrot juice with vodka, ginger liqueur and lime juice. It's sweet and earthy with a little warming ginger spice and subtle citrus brightness.

Over at Robust, beverage manager Denise Mueller recommends two of her current favorite cocktails, both of which contain wine.

"We try to stay in the cocktail craze, but maintain our level of education as a wine bar," she explains.

The "French Twist" at Robust | Patrick J. Hurley
  • The "French Twist" at Robust | Patrick J. Hurley

The first is the "French Twist," which combines rose vermouth with a very good dessert wine. The beautiful earthy, spicy fragrance of basil meets the nose, followed on the palate by bright lemon citrus and the subtle botanical notes from the gin. The vermouth imparts a little pleasant bitterness and some faint herbaceous notes. The botrytis character of the wine comes through, with a subtle note of orange. With so many great summer cocktails like this, one is apt to overuse the word "refreshing." Mueller offers her new favorite word as an alternative: "quenching." And this drink certainly is.

The "Brazilian Kir" at Robust | Patrick J. Hurley
  • The "Brazilian Kir" at Robust | Patrick J. Hurley

The "Brazilian Kir" is a mashup of two classics, the kir and the caipirinha. The drink uses an organic cachaça made from estate-grown sugar cane, which is quite smooth, and a chenin blanc/viognier blend. The drink is intensely aromatic with a huge floral note of jasmine and noticeable cassis. You can actually taste the wine, which is nice. The citrus note is soft and round, combining orange and lime. This is an enjoyably complex cocktail.

Next time you're studying the brunch menu, try one of these enjoyable alternatives. Better yet, try a couple. Deciding on what to order off the menu is too important to rush. With cocktails as good as these, you'll want to take your time.

Follow Patrick J. Hurley on Twitter at @VeganDrunkard. E-mail the author at

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