How The Mimosa Became The Ultimate Brunch Cocktail

The history of the mimosa and its connection to American brunch tradition is murky at best. Claimed origins include references to a Paris bar and a London men's club. There's even a somewhat suspect claim that Alfred Hitchcock invented the most popular brunch cocktail in the United States. The most probable theories suggest the mimosa is rooted in a French wine country tradition of combining orange juice and Champagne to create an aptly named Champagne-orange, but it wasn't until the early 20th century that word of the delightfully fresh libation began to spread beyond the vineyards of France.

In the 1920s, bartender Frank Meier began serving his version of Champagne-orange at the Ritz Bar in Paris. At about the same time, Malachi "Pat" McGarry, a resourceful bartender at London's Buck's Club, seized on the concept of mixing sparkling wine, orange juice, and a still-secret ingredient to make a tipple members could enjoy without judgment before lunch. McGarry christened his concoction the Buck's Fizz — but it still had nothing to do with American brunch. In fact, the cocktail remained relatively unknown in the United States for decades. How then did the classic blend of sparkling wine and orange juice catapult from relative obscurity in the U.S. to its place of honor as the cocktail of choice to complement American brunch staples like eggs Benedict and Belgian waffles? In a roundabout way, we can point to the British royal family for that development.

A long and winding road

Supposedly, it began when Earl Mountbatten introduced Queen Elizabeth II to the fizzy cocktail during a visit to the south of France. The queen, in turn, shared her discovery with friends and family. Salon suggests that a Sydney Morning Herald report from 1961 that tied mimosas to the British Royal Family may have been responsible for the drink's sharp rise in popularity, but the original article is not available for verification. Still, the royals reportedly enjoyed the drink as a pre-dinner aperitif rather than as a morning tipple. It took a few years — and a few sightings of trend-setting celebrities, mimosa in hand — for the delightful libation to appear on American brunch menus.

Which brings us back to the Alfred Hitchcock connection. There's little to substantiate claims that the master of suspense created the mimosa, but the British-born film icon helped raise its profile in the U.S. In the 2005 biography "It's Only a Movie," the mimosa was listed as Hitchcock's favorite cocktail, and he was known to savor them publicly in the mid-1960s. Then, In 1968, a savvy Jersey Shore restaurateur recognized the orange juice cocktail's brunch potential and began offering it as an alternative to a more traditional Bloody Mary. And the rest, as they say, is history.