Five Leaves’ Joshua Van Horn on Brunch Drinks


Joshua Van Horn is the main man behind the new cocktail menu at the Greenpoint neighborhood spot, Five Leaves. The restaurant is usually pretty hopping around brunch time, most likely because of its impressive daytime cocktail selection, so we asked Van Horn what makes his drink list so special, and the secret to the perfect morning pick-me-up.

What’s the vibe of the new cocktail list at Five Leaves?

We really worked with the classics this time. I like to think about the best way to build on top of a classic drink. For example, we have a variation on a Rob Roy on the menu — a Rob Roy is made with scotch and vermouth — and we’ll take that and brainstorm with each other here at the bar and think about what we can add that would give the drink another layer. That’s how our cocktails come along.

What’s the secret to concocting a superb brunch drink?

A brunch cocktail should be effortless. It’s going to be something that doesn’t bog you down. So, having some citrus in there is always good. It definitely shouldn’t be a full booze cocktail like a Manhattan. I think rum is a great starter — the flavor profile is uplifting during the day. Our Winthrop Gimlet is a good brunch cocktail, the Bison Grass vodka in it has a cinnamon flavor going on, but not in a dessert kind of way.

Do you have a favorite brunch cocktail on the menu?

I like the Rise of the Dane. It’s a riff on a Corpse Survivor No. 2 but we took the gin out of the cocktail and used aquavit instead. We’re using a Danish aquavit, Aalborg, which is a neutral grain spirit flavored with caraway. There’s also St. George absinthe in there as a rinse.

What would you order to go along with something from the restaurant’s oyster bar?

Well, personally, I wouldn’t get a cocktail. I would get a bottle of champagne. We have a great champagne that pairs well with oysters called Christian Etienne, a grower champagne.

Many of the cocktails on the new list are winter drinks. What makes a satisfying winter drink?

A winter cocktail is something I would want to sip on for a long time, be very comfortable and kind of hang out. For winter, rye and dark rum — like a Ron Zacapa 23-year-aged rum; I love that. And vermouth cocktails at dinner time.