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A.M. Drinking Losing Its Stigma

Hot & Cool Trends

By Cari Martens

Looks like the old morning ‘eye-opener’ may be enjoying a bit of a resurgence. More and more respectable establishments are serving cocktails well before noon, and they’re pouring drinks that go beyond the traditional brunch beverages like the bloody mary or mimosa.

It’s started happening on both U.S. coasts. Places such as the Clover Club and Fort Defiance, both in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the Alembic in San Francisco are offering such libations as a New Orleans-style bourbon milk punch or a Ramos Gin Fizz.

As reported by Robert Simonson, writing for The New York Times, morning cocktails have become quite chic in certain quarters. He says the shift in hours has been driven by both passion and necessity. One NYC bar owner noted, ‘The more you’re open, the more profit you make.’

The brunch daypart, in fact, is doing quite well in spite of the recessionary economy. Port Washington, N.Y.-based researcher NPD Group finds that during the first eight months of 2009, brunch traffic was up 8% over the same period last year.

Reminiscent of a bygone era

The idea of a sunrise cocktail is not really new. In the 19th century, Simonson writes, ‘it was not unusual for a gentleman to begin his day with a bracer at a tavern.’ He quotes Fort Defiance owner St. John Frizell. ‘You always read about these ‘eye-openers,’ ‘fog-cutters,’ ‘phlegm-cutters,’ ‘morning glories,'’ Frizell says. ‘They were arguably more popular than cocktails at night.’

Since the 20th century, however, there’s been a stigma associated with morning imbibing. That may be why the return of the traditional ‘eye openers’ are the last of the classic drinks to join in the fun of the current cocktail renaissance.

Irish Coffee and Bloody Marys are still popular sunlight choices, but are often available now in new variations. Some of the newer concoctions seeing the light of day include the Italian Fizz, a mixture of Fernet-Branca and sweet vermouth, and something called the Breakfast Cocktail—made of Old Tom gin, dry vermouth and orange marmalade—currently on the menu at Henry Public in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill.

Most morning cocktails employ ‘lighter liquors’ such as gin mixed with lighter flavors, like lemon juice.

Good morning…here’s lookin’ at ya.

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