Top Sydney sommeliers tell Time Out what wine they're drinking with their corn flakes
Matt Swieboda of Love Tilly Devine might well be the youngest, most precocious riesling aficionado in the country. His knowledge of the grape in all its permutations and the areas it inhabits is breathtaking. He often starts the day with a cheeky glass of riesling from the Mosel Valley in Germany. His favoured style is kabinett, generally off-dry, low in alcohol and invariably delicious. "The thing to love about it is its balance – the way the sugar and the acid together taste like sherbet." Refreshing and revitalising.
The most traditional breakfast beverage is, of course, the Bloody Mary (named after the bloodthirsty Queen Mary I of England). A hefty whack of vodka is sure to get you going again after a night on the tiles, yet here it's craftily disguised by restorative tomato juice and a gamut of spices. Sebastian Crowther, head sommelier at Felix, oversees not only a spankingly good wine list, but a Bloody Mary filled with barbecue sauce, Cajun spices, fresh tomatoes and liquid smoke. Guaranteed to set your day on fire.
Sophisticates and alcoholics alike agree that the only real beverage you can drink all day and night is Champagne. Stuart Knox of Elizabeth Street's Fix St James sits somewhere between these two camps, yet is guaranteed to have a bottle of something amazing on hand at whatever hour you visit. He's currently splashing about the Chartogne-Taillet 'Cuvee Sainte-Anne' (yes it's a mouthful, but don't talk about it, just drink the damn thing). It's all green apples and lime, with a dry, chalky finish. Just the thing to get the saliva flowing again.
While on the subject of sparkling libations, it would be remiss to gloss over what has been one of the most increasingly popular drinks of the Australian summer. Cider is fresh, with a touch of sweetness and a mild tickle of carbonation. Ben Moechtar, president of the NSW Sommeliers Association, always has plenty of cold Escanciador ‘ES' sidra in the fridge at his North Sydney outpost, Delicado. The flavour of fresh orchard apples is cut by biting acidity and a subtle vinegar note. It's low on fizz (and booze content) so you can slam it down fast.
Other suggestions for breakfast boozing:
Drinking before noon can be like putting a sticker on your forehead that says 'high functioning alcoholic'. Unlike Europe, where an aperitif is a civilised precursor to a meal and carries digestive rewards, you can't get a drink before noon in most places in Australia, unless they're early openers (and that's a tawdrier story). But there's a rich history of morning glory gargling and, done in moderation and very, very sporadically, it can be a tonic for the senses and a neat spritzer for your social life.
South Australian winemakers swear by sparkling shiraz as a pick-me-up after a hard night. It was a trick they picked up from the ancient Greeks who drank red wine each morning with breakfast. The Irish rebels and poets loved "Black Velvet" - a morning mix of Guinness and old champagne - to open creative sluices. Today, there are plenty of lighter reds that befit a breakfast tipple and can sooth a sore head or unsettled stomach after a rough night with heavier, protein rich foods. Rose in all its variations is the drop favoured most by the French and the Spaniards to ease into the day. Drink a glass at Delicado Foods from 11am.
Drinking hard liquor on waking isn't appealing unless it's a Bloody Mary (see right), an elixir "that purports to cure early morning anguish without crippling or blinding the patient." The flipside to this classic alco-aspro is the breakfast Martini (gin or vodka and marmalade shaken together, poured into a Martini glass and garnished with a small point of toast). In Russia, the straight spirit is used as a natural insulator against the bitter cold. Try a breakfast Martini at the Victoria Room from noon on Saturdays and Sundays.
There's a big tradition in Europe of letting the day dawn with a kick starting blow to the pancreas and liver via a corrected coffee (so called because you're adding and correcting the flavour of the coffee with booze). This is done in two ways. The first is the brandy is placed in the espresso shot and downed straight-up. The second finds the coffee drunk then the brandy is added and swirled around the leftover grounds. Either way, it's a mix of bracing pure spirit and caffeine. In Spain it's called café carajillo, in Italian it's café corretto. Drink one from noon onwards at Otto.
Perhaps the most accessible of the breakfast breezers, the amount of carbs and sugar in one beer is enough to keep you going for half the morning. They used to say one pint of Guinness was enough vitamin B and iron for the daily dose for a breastfeeding mother (not that the folks at Guinness are allowed to admit to it). The Coopers brewery in Adelaide ship their post-fermented yeast to Vegemite for use in their life-restoring spread. And some Belgian monks consider beer a form of liquid bread. Does that make it toast? Drink a beer from 8am onwards at the Friend in Hand.