Brunch is a weekend institution for good reason (and would totally dominate weekdays if given the chance). Not only can you indulge in bacon but also an alcohol fan’s favorite pastime: day drinking. Personally, however, I’m not a fan of most brunch staples. Mimosas? Boring. Bloody Marys? Taste like a can of tomato sauce. Thankfully, Los Angeles has a few venues like Terrine, Rose Cafe, and Love & Salt whose amazing craft cocktails go beyond the mundane. But it’s Josh Goldman’s brunch cocktail program at Belcampo Meat Co. in Santa Monica that truly shines.
Every one of his brunch cocktails tempts me, even the Bloody Marys. Take your pick of reimagined classics like a Ramos Gin Fizz made with cereal infused-milk or modern classics like Portland bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Kentucky Breakfast. His selections and their execution are completely outside the box, with prep so intensive that its prep book for the recipes is 25 pages long, double-sided.
In keeping with Belcampo’s philosophy, they produce everything from scratch. “We ferment strawberry soda, ginger beer—we do it all because that’s what Belcampo is about. It also gives us a lot more control over the cocktail and exactly what we want it to taste like,” says Goldman. There are even dedicated daytime prep people who come in so the bartenders can focus on making the drinks.
“We want that first cocktail in your hand as fast as possible,” explains Goldman. “Because the faster you can enjoy that first cocktail the more likely you are to get that second one or that third. If you wait forever for that first cocktail you’re less likely to order another one.”
Here’s a look at the brunch cocktails.
House Bloody Mary: Since Goldman isn’t fond of the texture of tomato juice, he made his own. The barman purees tomatoes, adds salt and sugar, then boils the mixture. When the solids rise to the top he skims them and is left with a blood-red tomato water that is then run through a coffee filter. This is the base for the Mary which is then mixed with vodka, cooked and raw Belcampo bacon, porcini mushroom powder, and cracked black pepper. This is cooked in a vacuum for a few hours, frozen overnight, and then strained through a coffee filter again. The finished cocktail is poured over celery ice cubes which imbue it with even more flavor while melting. Complex to make but super quaffable, unlike most Bloody Marys.
Snapping Turtle: For this gorgeous vegetarian Mary, Beefeater gin is flash infused with botanicals and herbs then kept refrigerated. The green tinged gin is then mixed with shiso, honey, and cracked black pepper. For some spice, Goldman hits it with wasabi oil. It is then garnished with edible micro flowers.
Ramos Cereal Milk: Goldman tried eight different berry-flavored breakfast cereals before he decided on Fruity Pebbles for his Ramos Gin Fizz variation. “Fruity Pebbles was by far the best out of all of them. It was the balance, the quality of the sweetness that came with it,” says Goldman. Since a Ramos is notoriously labor-intensive, the bar cuts down the time by using an ISI whipper to aerate the Fruity Pebbles cream.
Basque Sangria: This cocktail was recycled from the first menu Goldman and Julian Cox worked on together at the first Test Kitchen with Michael Voltaggio. “The Floc de Gascogne is like a Pineau des Charentes,” says Goldman. “It’s a little bit sweet but it’s balanced with fresh orange juice and the acidity from lemon and some Combier.” To emulate the fruit in traditional sangria but with a twist, freeze dried fruits are sprinkled on top of the cocktail, providing different textures from when some drop in the glass and soak of the cocktail or stay crispy.
Irish Coffee: Made to the specs of the original from 1940s Ireland, brown sugar cube is dissolved with hot coffee and Jameson Black Barrel. The cocktail is served up in a Belcampo mug with handwhipped cream layered on top, emulating the same hot cocktail used to cheer up cold and miserable American tourists who disembarked at the Shannon Airport back in the day.
Local Anesthetic: Goldman first fell in love with the Painkiller cocktail in New Orleans during Tales of the Cocktail. Rivera had been nominated for a Spirited Award so the team rented a house in the Garden District, around the corner from the Rum House and its infamous $5 Painkillers. “When you’re hungover there’s nothing better than a Painkiller,” he says. So for his version he uses housemade coconut cream, fresh orange juice, tangerine juice, fresh pineapple, and Denizen 8 year, which he and Cox represent.
By the way, Belcampo’s full cocktail menu is also available in the daytime should you crave a Gin & Chronic or a Bananas Foster Flip.