When you hear the word “brunch,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? It’s likely a tall, fluted glass of sparkling orange liquid. That’s right, we’re talking about the Mimosa.
Ahead of National Mimosa Day this May 16, we’re exploring the origins of this boozy breakfast treat, its fast rise to fame, and how it changed what the world is drinking. Pop that cork and grab an omelet—let’s tuck in for a little cocktail history:
British Breakfasts & French Flora
It’s hard to imagine a time without your favorite breakfast cocktail, but before the Mimosa there was “The Bucks Fizz.” In 1921, bartender Pat McGarry crafted the drink, which is named after London’s The Bucks Club.
The early riser’s cocktail was reportedly invented to give patrons the perfect excuse to enjoy a drink before lunchtime (an honorable cause, to be sure). For anyone requiring a little more encouragement, McGarry would famously supply: “But, my darling, the drinks have orange juice in them, so they aren’t really a drink at all…” Who could argue with that?
The primary difference between the Bucks Fizz and its modern adaption is the ratio between the key ingredients. A Bucks Fizz required two parts more wine (usually Champagne) than orange juice, whereas a Mimosa employs a less liberal pour of booze and bubbles—or, at least it’s supposed to. The secondary difference was how it was served; the Bucks Fizz was presented in a long tumbler instead of the signature Mimosa flute used today.
In 1925, bartender Frank Meier of The Ritz Hotel in Paris would alter the recipe to pioneer the famous Mimosa. The famous cocktail was nicknamed the Mimosa because of its color—a soft, yellow-orange reflective of the Acacia dealbata, or Mimosa plant.
More commonly known at the time as the “Champagne-Orange,” Meier’s version of the drink called for a cube of ice in a wine glass, fresh juice from half an orange, and equal parts Champagne. Later, Meier would immortalize the soon-to-be famous cocktail in his 1936 book, The Artistry of Mixing Drinks.
The Mimosa Receives A Royal Endorsement
It might come as a shock considering the enduring culture around Mimosas and brunch in the US, but even after its debut, the famous orange-juice cocktail went unnoticed by Americans for decades. While brunch was already popular activity across the country, Bloody Marys had long worn the crown for best breakfast tipple.
It wouldn’t be until the 1960s that the Mimosa earned its spot in the sun thanks to a few notable endorsements. A longtime staple in southern France, the drink was brought to the attention of The British Royal Family by the visiting Earl Mountbatten of Burma. It quickly became a favorite, enjoyed frequently on weekends and before dinner, as reported by British tabloids.
Legendary director Sir Alfred Hitchcock—British royalty in his own right—further cemented the popularity of the beverage in 1966. During a widely circulated interview with The London Express, he was described “in fine form, drinking Mimosas and smoking an eight-inch cigar.” In fact, Hitchcock has been so closely associated with the drink that some wrongly believe he invented it.
While that might be giving Hitchcock a bit too much credit, he can be thanked for lending the simple concoction a sophisticated reputation that paved the way for its fame in the US.
Brunch’s Signature Cocktail—The Mimosa
As the Mimosa entered more celebrity circles both in and outside of the US, it challenged the long-held title of the Bloody Mary as a breakfast staple. By the time the 1970s rolled around, the Mimosa had made its way onto menus everywhere as Brunch’s favorite cocktail.
While the Mimosa may struggle with its modern, scathing reputation as a “dirty vehicle for cheap OJ and even cheaper sparkling wine,” the persevering favor of this beverage cannot be denied. Like anything else, when it is made correctly and with quality ingredients, the result is delightful to the taste buds. That’s why, for good or ill, the Mimosa has continued to change what the world is drinking.
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