Brunch in New York City is far more than a simple combo of two meals — breakfast and lunch. Love it or hate it, the Gotham brunch scene is something of a spectacle, particularly in warm weather months where flocks of Sex and the City-types head to their local fancy eateries hoping to ply themselves with mimosas and see and be seen.
But even though modern New Yorkers seem to have taken ownership of the concept, Ephemeral New York sheds some light on its real origins. Turns out the idea of “brunch” was actually created by Guy Behringer, an English writer in 1885, who felt the meal would “encourage good cheer and ease Sunday hangovers.”
As with most cool things, those with mad cash quickly embraced the idea, taking it over as a way to celebrate the week’s end — though only in the UK at first. “Brunch did not become a New York City culinary experience until the early 1930s, when chef Werner Haechler offered it in the dining room at the Hotel Lombardy, on East 56th Street in Manhattan,” explains Andrew F. Smith in “Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover’s Companion to New York City.” In post-war years when attendance in church began declining, attendance at brunch rose. And as we all know, it continues to soar.
While the prices and eats have changed — in 1939 the New York Times highlighted sautéed veal and kidneys as part of the new brunch phenomenon — booze was certainly always at its center. Back then, New York’s liquor laws meant that those looking for a boozy brunch had to arrive after 1 p.m. And even though Mimosas and Bellinis were less prevalent (they didn’t become the norm until the 1950s), brunchers certainly still liked to pop bottles on weekend morns; one of the most popular libations was a mixture of port and champagne, called a “velvet”. [Ephemeral]