As we've already mentioned, Trattoria Il Mulino--offshoot of worldwide fine dining franchise Il Mulino New York--serves an outstanding brunch. Offerings range from traditional Italian takes on brunch classics (like their Uova in Camicia, Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon and Caviar) to more hearty pizza, pasta, and protein entrees. The dishes on the extensive menu bring the formidable A-Game that has come to be expected from the Il Mulino name. Coupled with the lovely ambiance (think cool off whites, repurposed glass light fixtures hanging a low glow overhead, and live jazz), Trattoria Il Mulino's brunch has rightfully earned a sizeable amount of buzz.
The Trattoria's food, however, isn't the only reason to brunch there. On a recent visit, we explored a variety of cocktails specially offered during the weekly Sunday meal. What we discovered was an interesting, impressive drink program expertly crafted to highlight and compliment the earthy Abruzzo palate, specifically considering the nuances of the midday menu.
Looking over the menu, it's evident that Head Bartender Logan Ronkainen has a penchant for reimagining classic cocktails. The Bellini, for instance, is spruced up with fresh peach puree, while the Mimosa #7 replaces the standard orange with lemon juice, rounded out by Oleo Saccharam and Earl Grey Bitters.
Most interesting among his re-workings is the Bloody Margarita. Employing Candolini Grappa in lieu of vodka, The Bloody Margherita is spicy and almost sauce-thick with pureed San Marzano tomatoes. Ronkainen is especially proud of the garnish--tart, house-pickled grapes--as he well should be. The surprising flavors and textures of the drink as a whole work well to echo the food's Central Italian tastes.
Like the dishes offered on the menu, however, the range of cocktails are not limited to the standard brunch drink fare (as re-vamped as they may be). Ronkainen also designed two other categories of drink not traditionally offered at brunch: Wake-Up Shots and Punches.
The three Wake-Up Shots are each designed for a specific part of the meal: before, during, and afterward. The Corpse Reviver #2--another one of Ronkanien’s re-imaginings--comes first, and replaces the traditional Lillet and Absinthe for Cocchi Americano. Next is the While You Were Waiting. It’s an original creation featuring Solbeso, a Cacao-based spirit that has just begun to hit the American market, and it utilizes lime cordial to bring out and brighten the vaguely chocolatey notes in the Solbeso. The In Ristretto plays out the trio, livening Café Borghetti with the bittersweet kick of Fernet Branca.
The Punches, which are served in single, double, and triple portions, are all delicious takes on the recently resurgent punch trend. In the Steam Punk Cosmo, the traditional Cosmo is (in our opinion) drastically improved by using cranberry-infused vodka instead of vodka and cranberry juice, as well as the complementary addition of Cointreau and more of that dazzling lime cordial, The result is a drink that’s both noticeably stronger (as the vodka is less watered down) and more complexly flavorful: the lime cordial both tempers and augments the tartness of the cranberry. The Sea And The Air is a hybrid of a Hemmingway and an Aviator, and is as sweet and rummy and citrusy as you could want in a punch, while the Scotch-based That’s It is alternatively made more gentle by chamomile honey and brighter by lemon juice.
In all, the Cocktails at Trattoria Il Mulino’s brunch are more than just a pleasant addition to the menu. We’d argue that they’re reason enough to merit a trip on their own.
Brunch is served at Trattoria Il Mulino (36 E 20th St) on Sundays, from 11:30 to 4.