As legend would have it, the world’s very first mimosa debuted in 1925 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Paris. Which seems fitting for a cocktail that’s effervescent, equal parts sweet and tart, and unapologetic about its ABV at brunch. (The mimosa was, apparently, a riff on a cocktail called The Buck’s Fizz, invented in London some years earlier.)
Almost a century later, a mimosa can be made almost any which way.
In its traditional format, that means orange juice and Champagne, with the ratio a matter of personal preference. (A particularly fun family friend used to say she liked “just enough OJ so it looks like breakfast.” I prefer to start with a more buttoned up one-third orange juice, two-thirds bubbly, and tweak from there.) When it comes to said OJ, you can’t beat the fresh-squeezed stuff—though store-bought works totally fine, too. If the convenience appeals, just go for a brand you love to drink plain (some stores even sell “fresh-squeezed” for livelier flavor and less work). Pulp or no pulp? Dealer’s choice. We’ve also been known to swap out pricey Champagne in favor of another affordable, dry sparkling wines, like Cava from Spain, or Prosecco from Italy.
But when it comes to swaps, juice variations are where the mimosa really shines. Pretty much any fruit juice can come to the party. A few of our favorite players are pomegranate juice, grapefruit juice, watermelon juice, guava juice, pineapple juice, and mango juice. We’d recommend starting by substituting half of the orange juice with another juice type—though you may find you prefer to swap in the full juice amount. Feel very free to add a dash of Grenadine or liqueur, too. No one would complain about a little Cointreau or St. Germain in the mix. (For a non-alcoholic mimosa, try sparkling water in place of the wine.)
Last, but certainly not least, come the accessories, aka garnishes. For a classic take, any citrus wheel or twist will look festive. Whole blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries (frozen as stand-in ice cubes, or just plain ripe) make for colorful add-ins. Candied ginger on a toothpick would add some serious jazz to the rim situation. And speaking of rims: While serving mimosas in Champagne flutes makes for a simple, elegant presentation, don’t sweat it if all you’ve got are wine glasses, or even regular old glassware. —Ella Quittner
Test Kitchen Notes
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3 to 4
oranges, plus more for garnish (we like to use organic ones, since we’re garnishing with the peel)
bottle dry sparkling wine, chilled
teaspoon kosher salt or fine sea salt
Juice your oranges, either using a juicer, or by hand through a sieve to catch seeds and pulp. Place the fresh orange juice in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.
When you’re ready to serve, fill each of five champagne flutes—or wine glasses, or plain old cups—about one-third of the way with fresh orange juice. Add a tiny pinch of salt to each. Carefully open the bottle of sparkling wine, and, pouring slowly against the inside of the flute, fill each flute the rest of the way.
Garnish each drink with a quarter-wheel of orange or a twist.
Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.