Looking for a little hair of the dog? These brunch spots offer some of the best – and most unique – brunch cocktails in the city. On Tap sat down with Green Pig Bistro, HalfSmoke and Whaley’s to find out what makes their brunch cocktails a cut above the rest.
Bar Manager, HalfSmoke
On Tap: What’s the story behind the Breakfast of Shaw cocktail?
Alexander Taylor: The Breakfast of Shaw was created by the owner, Andre McCain, and it’s a local take on the ostentatious Bloody Marys that have come about over the years. Ours consists of a couple of our fried goods – sweet potato tots, mac and cheese bites, Mexican corn bites, French fries – [and] we also throw some chicken wings and a sausage slider on there.
OT: What other drinks make your brunch cocktail menu so special?
AT: I’d say the more popular item that makes our brunch menu special is the fact that we offer free bottomless mimosas. Our mimosas are different in that we source craft bitters, and we use Triple Sec along with champagne and orange juice.
OT: What gives HalfSmoke its whimsical vibe?
AT: Our motto is “Don’t grow up – it’s a trap.” And we’re very nostalgic. You’ll find that we use Trapper Keepers as our menu binders, and we use old Disney VHS cases as our bill folders.
The Breakfast of Shaw
Tomato, lemon and lime juice
Salt and pepper
HalfSmoke: 651 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.halfsmoke.com
Bar Manager, Whaley’s
On Tap: What is Whaley’s most popular brunch cocktail?
Alahín Mentado: The Number One, which is a rum-based cocktail. It has a little bit of St-Germain, which is a nice elderflower, and that brings some sweetness to it. It’s mixed with fresh grapefruit juice and some sparkling rosé, so you’re going to have a little bit of tartness from the grapefruit, which is a nice balance with the rum, and then a nice, sweet flavor from the sparkling rosé. It’s beautiful.
OT: Do you have any off-the-menu cocktails that guests can try?
AM: If a guest wants to try something different, our bartenders are world-trained and can make anything. We ask [our] guests about their preference of alcohol and from there, we can go make a nice cocktail for them and make them happy. I love to see smiles on people’s faces after they taste a drink. I like to experiment, and that’s a good thing about Whaley’s. You can always come back and try different things at our bar.
OT: What’s the vibe of Whaley’s rose garden?
AM: The rose garden is a unique drinking experience for the city, and an opportunity for diners to forget they are in Washington. The space is very transformative, with the pink and white umbrellas, lush greenery and amazing view of the water. We offer a dozen or so of some of the greatest still and sparkling rosé wines from all over the world – from Israel to Australia. We don’t have a specific opening date for the garden yet, but it’s looking like it should be mid- to late April, depending on weather.
Caña Brava rum
Whaley’s: 301 Water St. SE, DC; www.whaleysdc.com
Starlynne and Tim Vogeley
Assistant GM and GM & Chef, Green Pig Bistro
On Tap: What inspired the full bar menu for brunch?
Starlynne Vogeley: That’s what our guests want. Our prices for Arlington [are] pretty comparable. But one thing we do have that’s different is if the ingredients call for fresh-squeezed orange juice or lemon juice, we try to get the freshest possible. If we can make it, we do that.
OT: What’s your most unique brunch cocktail?
SV: I would say the Iced Morning Moonshine. This was actually highlighted by Belle Isle. They came here specifically and interviewed our bartender, Lily King, who is the creator of that drink. Our bartenders are very creative and very talented.
OT: Do you ever experiment with new brunch cocktail recipes?
SV: [We] experiment all the time – constantly. We have a total of six bartenders, my husband as well. I like to drink them. I call myself the official taste tester. I like to consider everybody here perfectionists, and they’re trying to perfect their craft. These cocktails are all original creations by our bartenders.
OT: What makes Green Pig Bistro a sustainable dining option?
Tim Vogeley: We buy a lot of food products from local farms – some are organic, but not all of them. We have a 60-acre farm in Purcellville, and we’re thinking of growing hops. We might even open a small brewery there. We make our own pickles, cheese and hamburger buns.
Tim & Starlynne’s Pick
Green Pig Bacon Bloody Mary
Spicy bloody mix
Green Pig Bistro: 1025 N Fillmore St. Arlington, VA; www.greenpigbistro.com