History of the mimosa cocktail
Who doesn’t love a lazy weekend brunch? The perfect way to relax and catch up with friends after a busy weekend, or to recharge after a wild night out. But whether your idea of brunch is Eggs Benedict with creamy Hollandaise sauce or smashed avocado on sourdough toast, there is one drink that is a must on any brunch menu. Combining your early morning glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice with a dash of sophisticated lunchtime bubbly, mimosas are the ultimate brunch cocktail, with restaurants around the world pouring them out by the thousand every weekend.
Unlike many cocktail favourites, the origins of the mimosa are unclear. One popular theory is that they were invented by the 'Master of Suspense' himself, Hollywood director Alfred Hitchcock. Legend has it that Hitchcock and an unnamed friend were taking lunch in a San Francisco restaurant in the 1940s, and, having doubtless attended some glamorous soirée or other the night before, were in no mood for strong alcohol, ordering fresh orange juice topped up with champagne instead.
Sadly, however, the Hitchcock theory is simply not correct, as there is record of mimosas long before the '40s. Barman Frank Meier was serving them at the Paris Ritz as early as 1925, and has also been named as their possible creator. But Meier released a cocktail-making guide in the 1930s, where he indicates which drinks are his own creation, and although the mimosa is featured, he does not claim it as his own.
Other mimosa detectives have pointed out that the mimosa is almost identical to Buck’s Fizz, an orange juice and champagne cocktail created in 1921 by The Buck’s Club in London, reportedly as an excuse for its gentlemen members to start drinking before lunchtime. The main difference was proportions - mimosas tend to be equal parts champagne and orange juice, while the party-loving gentlemen of The Buck’s Club preferred two parts champagne to one part orange.
So is Buck’s Fizz the father of the mimosa? The truth is, nobody knows. What we do know is that ordinary people in the wine-growing regions of Europe have been mixing sparkling wine and orange juice for centuries. In France, ‘champagne and orange’ had been around long before it was given the name ‘mimosa’, while in Spain, orange juice is traditionally mixed with Cava and other sparkling wines. When the drink was first introduced to high society, and the identity of who first called it a mimosa may remain forever shrouded in mystery. Hitchcock would approve.
As for its reputation as a brunch favourite, it seems that Hitchcock may have played a part here after all. Mimosas were introduced to the United States in the early 1960s via celebrities from France and the UK, who were often described by newspapers as preparing or drinking mimosas as a way of conjuring an air of sophistication. Actress Vanessa Redgrave was described talking to an interviewer whilst sipping mimosas, while Hitchcock himself is mentioned preparing mimosas in two separate interviews. By the end of the decade, fashionable eateries in New Jersey had begun offering mimosas as part of their brunch menus, and the rest is history.
What’s the Best Champagne for Mimosas?
In fact, the best Champagne for mimosas may not be Champagne at all. Because mimosas were introduced to the brunch table via France and the UK, people tend to assume they have to be made with Champagne. But we now know that early forms of the mimosa were enjoyed all over Europe for centuries, using various different sparkling wines, so there’s really no need to limit yourself to just one.
If Champagne is the only drink for you, there are plenty of decadent and delicious Champagne cocktails to choose from, and to find out more about the different types of champagne and how to serve it, check out our handy guide to everything you ever needed to know about Champagne. But if you are willing to experiment with good quality Cava and Prosecco, you will find that you can produce superior mimosas at a fraction of the cost.
Best type of sparkling wines for Mimosa
There are many differences between sparkling wines. The type of grapes used, the region in which they are grown, and production methods, all affect the subtle flavour profile of each wine. For making mimosas, you should select a dry wine to complement the sweetness of the orange juice. Look for bottles labelled ‘Brut’ or ‘Extra Brut’, indicating that little or no residual sugar is left after fermentation, and don’t be confused by ‘extra dry’ wines, which are actually sweeter than Brut wines. Our favourite sparkling wines for making mimosas are Cava and Prosecco, both of which have some excellent Brut varieties.
Cava is made in Spain, using chardonnay, pinot noir, parellada or xarel-lo grapes. Like Champagne, it is fermented using the Traditional Method, where the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle, causing the carbon dioxide created to sink back into the wine, and making it fizzy.
Cava can be very dry, and works well with sweeter oranges like navels. We love Mercat Brut Nature Cava, a complex dry and fruity wine with a nose of ripe pear and brioche and hints of apricot and nectarine, or Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut Cava, a crisp, clean and well-balanced Cava, with a fresh palate of apple, ripe pear and bright citrus flavours, combined with a long finish and a touch of ginger.
Prosecco is produced in the Veneto region of Italy, and is typically made using the glera grape. It is fermented using the Martinotti-Charmat method, where the wine undergoes second fermentation in large tanks and is then bottled under pressure. Prosecco is currently enjoying a surge of popularity due to its delicate floral flavour and affordability, and there are several varieties that work well with mimosas. In our opinion, two of the best are Zardetto Prosecco Brut Treviso, a golden, citrus-flavoured wine with a floral bouquet, and The White Knight Prosecco, a crisp, fruity wine, with notes of acacia flower, apple, and citrus peel.
Prosecco tends to be dry with a hint of sweetness, and is best with slightly bitter oranges. It works perfectly paired with the sharpness of blood orange in our favourite mimosa jelly recipe, a refreshing, boozy treat to wow your dinner guests.
Other wine-bearing cocktails
Maybe you’re not in the mood for a mimosa, but you would like a mixed drink with wine, sparkling or otherwise. One tried-and-true alternative is sangria, which also brings wine and fruit together in aromatic and refreshing matrimony. To shake things up, you could serve it at Christmas time, combining cranberry, cinnamon, and other ingredients with a dry red wine to evince holiday cheer. Or if you don’t want to stray from the mimosa’s colour palette of luminescent yellow-orange, a peach bellini might be in order. This cocktail stuns by simplicity, with only two ingredients: fresh peaches and ice-cold Prosecco. Or you could take the best of both cocktails and make white peach sangria, with a base of Pinot Grigio, French Viognier, or Italian Moscato.