By most published accounts, the mimosa was invented by Frank Meier in 1925. He was a bartender at the Ritz Bar in Paris. But one has to wonder, how exactly did this European-borne drink became so iconic on the American brunch table?
Truth be told, Frank Meier was probably not the inventor of the mimosa. He published a cocktail book in 1934 titled, The Artistry Of Mixing Drinks, which includes the mimosa along with 300 other recipes. But Meier would usually place a symbol next to the cocktails he invented (his initials inside a diamond) and the mimosa did not have such marking.
Then there’s the Champagne-orange, which was a popular drink served in French wine country, and it was picked up by both the Buck’s Club and Ritz Bar. The OJ-and-Champagne combo was little known in America until it suddenly became popular in the 1960s thanks in large part to the British Royal Family. A London correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald reported in 1961 that the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and even the Queen Mother have developed a penchant for this “cocktail they call mimosa.”
It was the Earl Mountbatten who introduced the drink to the Queen after visiting the south of France, and it didn’t take long before this new drink found its way to country homes in England. The mimosa version used by the royal family was iced champagne, with orange juice and they drank it before dinner.
In the United States, Sunday brunch has been around for many years but mimosa was not yet present before the 1960s. Instead, the classic drink was the bloody Mary. Others were a bit daring and chose cocktails like banana daiquiris and Kir (white wine and cassis). Charley O’s, which was an Irish pub did serve what they referred to as “Champagne orange” which was the French’s version with champagne and orange juice, plus a hint of Cointreau.
“Champagne orange” never became a hit in the US, because British and French celebrities like Vanessa Redgrave and Denise Darcel were more fond of calling it “mimosa.” In May 1966, a London Express reporter interviewed Alfred Hitchcock, and remarked that he was “in fine form, drinking mimosas and smoking an 8-inch cigar.”
The Europeans made mimosas famous in New York, but usually as something they drink in the evening or after a round of partying. It was only in New Jersey that the mimosa was first considered as something people would drink during the day.
It took several more years for the drink to become a brunch staple in New York City. In 1977, New York Times’ Mimi Sheraton finished a 40-stop brunch tour of Manhattan, and found the mimosa to be one of the favorites.
By this time mimosas were appearing on restaurants’ brunch menus across the country. Recipes for mimosas could be found in magazines and newspaper, and they almost all involve mixing equal parts orange juice and champagne. By the time Ronald Reagan became president, mimosas became as popular as the bloody Mary.