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Low alcohol and coffee-based cocktail recipes for brunch

The keys to drinking before noon

Brunch cocktails have been playing a slow fugue while the rest of the cocktail movement has evolved at a rapid clip. Rather than settle for variations on the Mimosa or Bloody Mary themes, we've come up with three guidelines to a more inspired morning buzz.

Coffee: Bartenders love coffee; baristas love cocktails. Put those drinks together and you have the ultimate brunch beverage. We took cues from Erick Castro--who has iced coffee on tap at his bar, Polite Provisions--to create this caffeinated, herbaceous cocktail (see the recipe). For an even simpler solution, consider adding coffee liqueur to your bar.

Low Alcohol: Session-style spirits have proliferated in recent years thanks to a renewed interest in European aperitifs, so give the sparkling wine a rest. For spring, we're thinking pink with Aperol, Lillet Rosé and the just-arrived Cocchi Rosa ($18)--a kissing cousin to the popular Cocchi Americano. It stars in this refreshing play on a Pimm's Cup.

Small Pours: Any drink can be a brunch drink; just follow Lydia Reissmueller's lead and make a miniature version of your favorite libation. Her bar menu at Levant in Portland, Oregon, features small pours of infused spirits like chamomile-laced whiskey, and rum that's been infused with sun-dried limes.

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