How Mimosas Made Day Drinking Socially Acceptable

Words: Robyn Samuels

There are two kinds of brunch people – those who drink spicy tomato juice, and those who prefer bottomless Mimosas with their eggs Benedict. Needless to say, we’re more the ‘Champagne Orange’ type, and we can’t imagine brunch without it. If you love this citrusy cocktail as much as we do, here’s everything you need to know about the origins of Mimosa, and how it made day drinking socially acceptable.

Thanks to the influence of French mixology and British food culture, Mimosas became the unofficial brunch drink of choice – not just for socialites, but high-ranking royals too…

When the First Mimosa Was Made

While Blood Marys and Mimosas may seem worlds apart as brunch cocktails, they share a surprising commonality – both are linked to royal figures.

Blood Marys are rumoured to have been named after Queen Mary of Tudor who reigned terror on her subjects and shed blood; thankfully, Mimosas have a less homicidal history. The drink rose to fame in England when Queen Elizabeth II was introduced to the drink by Earl Mountbatten of Burma, after having tasted the drink in the South of France in 1961.

As for the origins of Mimosa, there are two main theories. The first and most circulated belief is that it was first served at the Hotel Ritz Paris in 1924. Bartender, Frank Meier, is credited for its invention, but this remains widely disputed. Between running gambling bets and selling Jewish citizens fake IDs in German-occupied France during World War II, Meier managed to keep a low profile, and for good reason… the notorious bartender made a disappearing act after he was caught coaxing hotel guests to settle their tabs with him via his London bank account.

From Buck’s Fizz to Mimosas

Despite his hazy history, Meier managed to author a book, The Artistry of Mixing Drinks (1936), containing hundreds of cocktail recipes – and an interesting anecdote about a bar chicken-chase and tail feathers strewn between bottles of booze, leading to the adopted moniker ‘cocktail’. The art-deco detailed paperback references a recipe for ‘Mimosa’ or ‘Champagne Orange’. Simple and classic, it reads: “In large wineglass, a piece of Ice, the juice of one-half Orange; fill with Champagne stir and serve.”

While Meier is credited for the invention of many cocktails – including the gin-based, honeyed drink named ‘Bee’s Knees’ – he often initialled original recipes listed in his book; Mimosa was not one of them. Another famous theory for this brunch beverage is that the drink was named after the yellow Mimosa flowers that bloom in the South of France.

Others believe that another popular drink at the time, Buck’s Fizz – invented at the London gentleman’s club, Buck Club – is the OG Mimosa. Although both beverages contain the same ingredients – two parts sparkling wine or Champagne and one part orange juice – the name ‘Mimosa’ stuck like alcohol breath in the morning.

Thanks to the influence of French mixology and British food culture, Mimosas became the unofficial brunch drink of choice – not just for socialites, but high-ranking royals too…

Brunch Culture Meets Day Drinking

The effervescent cocktail gained widespread popularity in 1961 after the Sydney Morning Herald ran an article on Queen Elizabeth II’s brunch preferences. According to the newspaper, “The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Queen Mother all have adopted a Champagne cocktail they call mimosa.”

Though Mimosas are associated with brunch, the royal family enjoyed it as a pre-dinner drink. Nonetheless, we have the British to thank for the invention of brunch culture, and by association, the introduction of the beloved Champagne cocktail. For those who drank more than their weight in booze on Saturday nights, Sunday brunch was the ideal solution.

A portmanteau of the words ‘breakfast’ and ‘lunch’, brunch was introduced as a new mealtime to accommodate hungover and hungry crowds who could sleep in without missing the most important meal of the day.

Brunch culture originated in Britain during the late 19th century; the diverse spread of food meant that people could get a bit of everything on a single plate – like a homemade buffet. It was around the 1930s when the trend travelled to the States,  and became popular among upper-class citizens, churchgoers and Saturday soirée folk.

As for the introduction of mimosas at brunch, the influence of long-reigning British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is often credited. Shortly after she was spotted enjoying the fizzy concoction in 1961, Mimosas became the topic of conversation across the Atlantic and rose to fame – ousting its long-time brunch rival, Bloody Mary. Even critically acclaimed film director, Alfred Hitchcock, enjoyed the occasional mimosa. In 1966, the London Express spotted him “in fine form, drinking mimosas (Champagne and orange juice) and smoking an eight-inch cigar.”

The Evolution of Mimosas

Today, bottomless Mimosa are enjoyed by brunch lovers throughout the world. The original recipe hasn’t changed much, though, instead of adding a single ice cube (as Meier’s version suggests), many ensure that the Champagne and orange juice are well chilled to avoid diluting the flavour.

To enhance the taste of the orange juice, some might add a tot of orange liqueur or bitters. Grand Manier, a Cognac brandy and bitter orange blend, imparts a pronounced zestiness, sweetness and subtle spice notes. Triple Sec enhances the zesty flavour, but is comparatively less pronounced.

While the French-born drink traditionally requires Champagne, sparkling wine or MCC are equally popular substitutes today. Orange juice remains the juice of choice, but for those who can’t stand pulp in their cocktail, spin-offs like Poinsettia (Mimosa with pomegranate juice), the Limonosa (lemonade and blueberry syrup), the Flirtini (pineapple juice, Champagne and vodka), as well as Sherbert Mimosa (replace OJ with a bit of sherbet) for a taste of excitement.

Want more? Read all about the stories behind these weird cocktail names

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