I don’t think there’s anything better than meeting up with a few friends for Sunday afternoon brunch. The idea of doing nothing but eating and chatting and drinking and eating and chatting—and did I mention drinking, yet?—is just too good of a opportunity to pass up. “Fun to be had by all. Don’t miss out,” should be Sunday’s new slogan. Perhaps you have a go-to spot for your Sunday Funday festivities. I know I do. Maybe there’s a place out there, where you’re a regular and they know you on a first name basis because you’re always there drinking. I’m not judging. I just wish I knew the name of the establishment so I can be right there drinking with you. No one should be day drinking alone, that’s my motto. You can always count on me to help out a friend. With my assistance, we’ll conquer those endless pitchers of mimosas or bloody marys. Two at a time, of course. I’m willing to take one for the team.
I recently met up with a few friends for brunch. We sat down and I immediately scanned the “Brunch Cocktail” menu and pretended not to. “Oh, you think we should get a drink? I haven’t even looked at that section yet!” That’s pretty much how the conversation went down. It was my first time at this particular restaurant and apparently they’re most known for their mimosas (and blueberry lemonade but that didn’t have any alcohol in it so I wasn’t interested). No thank you. One of the mimosas that kept calling out to me, “Jonathan, drink me! Drink me! DRINK ME,” was a raspberry black pepper mimosa. My boyfriend and I pretty much devoured the entire pitcher ourselves (looking at our friends like where did it go?), but only after we licked off all of the black pepper and sugar that coated the edge of the glasses. Yes, our friends’ glasses as well. We sent a silent note to each other through telekinesis where we vowed to recreate the drink at home. So recreate we did.
I don’t know about you but I always find cocktails to be daunting to whip up. Like you need to be a certain type of bartending magician with super natural alcohol-mixing powers in order to make a really good drink. It’s an unrealistic fear because as it turns out, or as I’ve come to realize, making cocktails isn’t that hard at all. It’s actually a breeze, if you think about it. You don’t really have to worry about cooking or baking anything, for the most part, I mean there are some crazy cocktail recipes out there so you never know. You can add a splash of juice here and a splash of club soda there and a pouring of alcohol and a pouring of alcohol and a pouring of alcohol and everything will turn out great. There aren’t too many complicated steps to this cocktail, so don’t worry. We begin by making the fresh raspberry purée.
(I just lied. The first thing you have to do is make a simple syrup. It’s really easy to make, so I didn’t think I needed to show it. Just pour equal parts water and granulated sugar—I used a half cup of each—into a pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for a few minutes to allow the sugar to dissolve and form a syrup. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely).
Now we can start making the raspberry purée! Pour the raspberries into a blender or food processor.
**Tip: If fresh raspberries aren’t in season and you’re having trouble finding them at your local grocery store, then feel free to use frozen raspberries instead! Just allow the frozen berries to thaw and then throw them into the blender or food processor.**
Add the juice of two oranges, you can also just add a few splashes of store bought orange juice, if you’re in a hurry (just keep in mind that store bought orange juice has added sugar). Blend until it’s a smooth purée.
Raspberries are pesky because of all the seeds they have. I don’t think this drink would be great with a bunch of raspberry seeds floating all through it so I recommend straining them out.
**Tip: Just set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the purée through it so that the juice goes through and the seeds stay in the strainer. You might need to help it out by passing it through with the back of a spoon. Discard the seeds.**
You can skip the straining step if you don’t mind the seeds in your drink. I find that most people do mind, blaming fruit seeds for all of their problems in life and then proceeding to throwing their drinks at me. I didn’t want that to happen this time around so I decided I’d be safer removing the seeds.
That’s probably the hardest part about this recipe, if you can believe it. (SO BELIEVE IT!) We’re going to assemble the cocktail now because I just know that you, as well as I, can’t wait any longer. “Just make the cocktail already Jonathan!!” Okay okay, don’t yell at me.
We’re going to mix everything together in a pitcher.
Depending on the size of your pitcher (you might have to make this in two batches) pour in about half of the raspberry purée.
We’re going to now pour in a bit of the simple syrup.
**Note: You don’t have to add all of the simple syrup. Depending on how sweet or tart your raspberries are, add more or less. Add only a little bit of syrup at a time, giving it a taste until you reach the exact sweetness you want. I hate when a cocktail is too sweet, so I’m not going to tell you how much or how little to add. That’s up to you.**
Like I said earlier, I’m not a fan of sweet cocktails, so I only added a small splash of simple syrup.
If you were just thinking to yourself, “When is the alcohol going to make an appearance?”, well wait no further because the time has come. The time is now. We’re going to add a few glugs of vodka. Yes, you read that right. Vodka. That’s what we’re adding to this cocktail.
**Note: You don’t have to go out and buy a really expensive bottle of vodka (I’m not saying get the cheapest thing on the shelf, either), but a decent moderately priced bottle of vodka will do just fine. Or the bottle that is pretty good, and happens to be on sale that day—grab that one. There’s so much flavor from the raspberries and the orange juice and the black pepper and the thyme and the champagne that the vodka is only a small part of it.**
And now for the best part—which I think is the most important part of this recipe—we’re going to carefully add the champagne. I say carefully because you don’t want to dump it all at once because it’ll bubble over and create a mess and you’ll lose valuable champagne you could be drinking. Allow the bubbles to dissipate and then add more champagne.
**Note: You can do this with a sparkling wine (there’s this whole debate about sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France and those are the only champagnes that can be called champagne, so here in the US champagne champagne is hard to find, or really pricey). But feel free to use a bottle of prosecco if that’s all you can get your hands on, or if you really like it.**
(Special thanks to one Julian Clark, love of my life, for pouring the ingredients into the pitcher for me. You’re an angel sent from above and I appreciate you).
Give it all a mix with a wooden spoon or something long like that, to combine all the liquids.
Okay so our drink is ready, now we need to prepare the glasses. I know this isn’t a margarita, but I do like to coat the edges of the glasses with a bit of sugar, and of course black pepper because after all I did promise you black pepper in this drink title. So grind a whole lotta black pepper into a shallow dish. Use the freshly coarse stuff because it’s fresher. Add some turbinado sugar to the pepper and give it a stir.
Grab one of those lemon wedges and run it along the edge of each glass. This will give the sugar and pepper something to stick to, like glue.
Then dip each glass upside down into the pepper and sugar.
Repeat the process until each glass is done and coated.
**Tip: You might want to do this step before mixing together the cocktail, that way it’s still bubbly and cold. I’m doing it all wrong so just ignore me!**
Now you can pour the cocktail into the glasses, careful not to spill any because that’s less booze for us to drink and we definitely don’t want that to happen. After that, you can garnish each drink with a sprig of fresh thyme. The thyme gives the drink that little umpfthh, the tip over the edge. The wooooooh00000 hint in the background. Don’t skip it or omit it because you’ll be missing out! (And you’ll regret it!)
Serve and drink right away because you want it to be cold and you want the champagne to still be bubbly. You can place the pitcher in the fridge and chill the rest while you drink away. That way it stays cold.
This is a good drink to serve at a gathering or get together because you can make a big pitcher and then have everyone pour themselves a glass or two (or three). To prevent the champagne from losing it’s fizziness, mix everything together except the champagne. Then have a couple bottles ready to go and you can treat it like a mimosa. Your guests can pour some champagne into their glass first, and then pour in the raspberry vodka mixture. It’s the perfect cocktail recipe to make in advance.
My favorite part of this cocktail is the black pepper and sugar coating around the edges of the glass. It’s a nice texture to breakthrough the cold raspberry champagne cocktail. You get a slight bite of heat from the black pepper and a hint of a woodsy lemony flavor from the thyme sprig floating in the drink. All these flavors might seem a bit off to you at first, I was skeptical myself, but I’m telling you, it’s a great drink. Perfect for this time of year, when it’s just starting to warm up and we’re all looking for a fun drink to get us to the weekend. Enjoy!
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 pints fresh raspberries, rinsed
- 2 oranges, juiced
- 3 to 4 ounces vodka
- 1 bottle champagne (sparkling wine or Prosecco)
- ¼ cup turbinado sugar (raw sugar)
- ¼ cup freshly cracked black pepper
- lemon wedges
- fresh thyme sprigs
- Combine the water and sugar in a small sauce pot. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Cook until the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. It’ll get syrupy as it cools.
- Throw the raspberries into a blender or food processor along with the fresh orange juice and blend until completely smooth. Pour the mixture into a fine mesh strainer, placed over a peel, to remove the raspberry seeds. Discard the seeds. Pour the raspberry mixture into a large pitcher and stir in as much of the simple syrup as you’d like. If you like sweeter drinks, add more syrup, and if you don’t like sweet drinks, add only a splash. Stir in the vodka and sparkling wine.
- Combine the black pepper and raw sugar in a shallow dish. Run the lemon wedge along the edge of the glasses to create a glue. Then dip the glass, upside-down into the shallow dish of sugar and pepper. Repeat until all of the glasses are coated. Pour the cocktail into the pepper sugar rimmed glasses and top with a sprig of thyme. Serve and drink right away. Enjoy!
- yield: about 6 to 8 servings