If you’ve ever sucked down that last reservoir of delicious cereal milk at the bottom of your bowl and thought, Hey, this would be great with some booze, then you, my friend, are an excellent predictor of cocktail trends. Bartenders across the country are mixing up glasses full of sweet, sweet nostalgia in the form of cereal-inspired cocktails that would make your Mueslix-peddling mom go berserk.
The trend started with Momofuku Milk Bar’s cereal milk (toasted cornflakes and brown sugar steeped in milk), and, like most anything, it was only a matter of time before someone added alcohol. Now mixologists are using Lucky Charms, Trix, Cap’n Crunch and other kid favorites as muses.
“I think that no matter how complicated the cocktail or what spirit you use, cereal is something that everyone connects to immediately,” said Laura Bellucci, Bar Chef at New Orleans’s SoBou. She was first inspired to blend spirits with cereal after reading about a bartender whoinfused Wonder Bread into Bols Genever gin.
“I thought, if he's doing that, then all bets are off; carbohydrate infusions are on! I bought all my favorite cereals and did a bunch of tester infusions,” Bellucci said.
The winner was a dark rum-Honey Nut Cheerios concoction that she uses in her Honey Buzz Milk, a take on NOLA’s decadent milk punch. “It's playful and silly and it tastes like fancy, doctored-up cereal milk.”
Bellucci’s second favorite combination was bourbon with Cinnamon Toast Crunch, which is what bar manager Iouli Burroughs uses in his Cinnamon Toasted Cocktail—another riff on milk punch—at Charleston’s Fish Restaurant. Burroughs oven-roasts the CTC before pouring it into milk, where the cereal generously sheds its cinnamon-sugar goodness. He then adds Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and honey to the infused milk and serves it in a tall glass over ice.
While most of these cocktails are available all day, one drink in particular makes it clear that sipping cereal out of a cocktail glass is perfectly acceptable beyond the a.m. hours. The It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore at Alexandria’s Society Fair is a buzzy blend of sweetened coffee, rum, and Cap’n Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch “milk air” (heated, cooled, and blended cereal milk). Like a bowl of cereal, it’s perfect for second lunch or dinner.
If you have a penchant for fake fruity flavors, don’t worry, there are boozy options for you, too. Benjamin Schiller, lead bartender at Chicago’s The Sixth, uses Trix as inspiration for the Silly Rabbit, an Instagram sensation thanks to its colorful, stacked ice cubes.
“I wanted to offer one of my favorite classic cocktails—the Southside—in a slightly deconstructed way that would also convey a sense of humor and approachability,” Schiller says. “Trix was a part of my childhood. As an adult, I can’t say that I don’t ‘relive’ those childhood mornings a bowl at a time every now and again.”
Schiller, who has been experimenting with flavored ice for years, wanted to create a cocktail that got more flavorful as the ice melted, instead of more diluted. His take on the Southside — which typically combines mint, gin, and lemon — gets fruitier as the giant, Trix-flavored ice cubes melt. (Trix fans will appreciate that the ice flavors are the original three from its launch in 1954, Lemony Yellow, Orangey Orange, and Raspberry Red, plus Grapity Purple, added in 1984.)
“The thought of breakfast and brunch often bring a sense of informality along with them, and I think that informality and playfulness is often well-received in the cocktail world,” Schiller said.
Because cereal for happy hour makes being an adult a little more bearable.
The Ramos Cereal Milk at Santa Monica’s Belcampo Meat Co. is another playful take on the brunch cocktail. Bar consultant Josh Goldman reimagines the classic Ramos Gin Fizz with Fruity Pebbles-infused cream, and while the drink may taste effortlessly delicious, it took a lot of work to get it that way (if you consider slurping bowl after bowl of cereal milk “work”).
“I did a lot of trial-and-error with cereal milk,” Goldman said. “I knew I wanted something to play with gin, so I needed something fruity and citrusy.”
After a cereal milk taste-test of eight different berry-flavored cereals, Goldman declared Fruity Pebbles the clear winner. “The Fruity Pebbles gave me lemongrass, kaffir lime, citrusy and floral high notes that would play well with gin,” he noted.
Not all cereal-inspired drinks use actual cereal; take the Puppy Chow at Atlanta’s BLT Steak. The drink tastes just like the Chex Mix snack, but its only ingredients are pecan vodka, Frangelico, and agave. It made its way onto the restaurant’s cocktail menu because of its sweet and savory flavors — not to mention that Puppy Chow was General Manager Jason Horgan’s go-to after-school snack growing up.
“Nostalgic flavors that tap into guests’ memories always do well for us,” Horgan says. And that’s what it’s all about, right? Packaging childhood wonder and innocence into less-sober, drinkable form. Because cereal for happy hour makes being an adult a little more bearable.
Honey Buzz Milk Punch (from SoBou, New Orleans)
1 ½ ounces Honey Nut Cheerios-infused dark rum
¾ ounces Honey syrup (I like Bernards Acadiana Honey)
2 ounces Milk
2 dashes El Guapo Holiday Pie Bitters
How to Make It
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a Honey Nut Cheerio or rim the glass with crushed Honey Nut Cheerios mixed with cinnamon and sugar.