Cocktails are an intrinsic part of what makes brunch brunch, but more often than not restaurants attract customers with quantity over quality. Enter the (bottomless) mimosa and (endless) bloody Mary.
At Redbird's newly launched brunch, bar director Tobin Shea's inventive cocktail list invigorates the usual cocktails to pair with chef Neal Fraser's opulent brunch dishes. The most popular of Shea's new creations are his takes on the bloody Mary — made with clarified tomato, clarified lemon, white balsamic vinegar, fennel, basil, and pepper vodka — and the mimosa, crafted from a combination of Chablis white wine and clarified orange juice that's been force-carbonated.
"I hate to use the word 'improve,' because to some people those are classics they look forward to every Sunday, but I just kind of wanted to put my spin on it," Shea says. "So with the mimosa, I'm using a technique that they use in wine making. There are fining agents like chitosan and pectinase that winemakers use to make their wines look very clear; I use those to help separate orange juice in the centrifuge, and then instead of using Champagne I use a Chablis from the same area as Champagne to get the flavors and the chalkiness. Then I force-carbonate that in large format, and we have it on draft."
The result is what can be described as a grown-up mimosa. The chalk notes from the wine and subtle orange flavor from the clarified juice are livened up with the light carbonation.
Shea's bloody Mary variation, the Mary Poppins, goes through the same clarifying centrifuge process and possesses most of the elements of a traditional bloody Mary, with a few subtle tweaks. It's ever so slightly carbonated; the acidity comes not only from lemon juice but also the white balsamic vinegar. There is St. George Chili vodka, Square One basil vodka and a bit of fennel liquor, all which add vegetal notes.
"Traditional bloody Marys are wonderful," Shea says. "They're umami in a glass. But sometimes it's too heavy. It's meant to make you feel better when you're hungover but sometimes makes you feel worse, because it's so heavy."
The Mary Poppins' clarified juice is lighter and more refreshing, which means you can actually drink a few of them without feeling bloated.
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Other standout cocktails include the Good Morning, Vietnam, a riff on Vietnamese iced coffee inspired by Shea's grandfather, who always drank his coffee with condensed milk. "I was down in Little Tokyo trying to find condensed milk and came across condensed coconut milk and thought I had to try that — and it was even better," Shea explains. The condensed coconut milk gets mixed with a Trinidadian rum (with a particularly strong vanilla accent imparted by the barrels), cold-brew coffee and a hit of Italian amaro.
"Brunch is difficult," Shea says."There's the expectation that [the customer] is tired and possibly hungover, so I tried not to go too crazy on the menu but still wanted to do a few things differently while also keeping it comfortable for people. It's a tightrope you have to walk to make sure everyone walks away happy while still being innovative."
Redbird, 114 E. Second Street, downtown; (213) 788-1191, redbird.la.