Words by: Simon Difford
The Buck’s Fizz and Mimosa are very similar cocktails, the Buck’s Fizz is made with two parts champagne to one part orange juice, while the Mimosa is made with equal parts champagne and orange juice. The two drinks are further distinguished by the Mimosa being served in a wine glass over ice while the Buck’s Fizz is served without ice in a flute or coupe.
In the UK, where the Buck's Fizz originated, the drink was huge during the 1980s, to the extent that pre-mixed bottled versions appeared in supermarkets, where they are still sold to this day. The Buck's Fizz also became the fashionable wedding day drink-on-arrival, made en masse by caterers with warm cartoned concentrate orange juice. Indeed, bad orange juice and cheap sparkling wine have been responsible for the near death of the Buck's Fizz and the Mimosa.
The Buck's Fizz and the Mimosa are such simple drinks that they barely constitute being termed a cocktail. However, when made with freshly squeezed orange juice, produced from oranges taken straight from the refrigerator so the juice is cold, and chilled brut champagne, both are tasty drinks with a history that justifies their place in Difford's Cocktail Hall of Fame.
A sunny afternoon is a great time to appreciate a refreshingly light Mimosa while the Buck's Fizz is a great brunch drink. To get through the endurance test that wedding receptions so often are, I for one need something a bit stronger.
Buck's Fizz - two parts champagne to one part orange juice (no ice)
Mimosa - equal parts champagne and orange juice (over ice)
Grand Mimosa - a Mimosa with a dash of orange liqueur
Puccini - a mimosa made with mandarins, mandarin liqueur and prosecco
Blushing Mimosa - orange juice, pineapple juice, champagne and grenadine
Valencia - orange juice, apricot liqueur and champagne
Although there is only sketchy evidence to back up the believed origins of these two cocktails, their chronological appearance in cocktail books supports the Buck's Fizz outdating the Mimosa.
The Buck's Fizz is thought to have been created in 1921 by Pat McGarry, the first bartender at the Buck's Club, London, England, while the Mimosa is said to have been created four years later (1925) by Frank Meier at the Ritz Hotel in Paris.
The Buck's Fizz is listed as one of 21 "fizzes" in Harry Craddock's 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book with the proportions "¼ glass orange juice, fill with champagne" in a "long tumbler". Tellingly, Harry doesn't list a Mimosa but does include a "London Buck Cocktail", also served in a "long tumbler" with "1 lump ice, 1 glass dry gin, the juice of 1/2 lemon and 1 split [small bottle] of ginger ale."
The Savoy Cocktail Book 1930
This mention of the London Buck (also known as a Gin buck or a Ginger Rogers) cocktail serves as a reminder that a Buck is an old name for a family of mixed drinks lengthened with ginger ale. The Buck's Fizz was a Fizz made at the Buck's Club and lives in the Fizz family, not the Buck family of drinks. The Buck's Fizz has confused some into mistakenly thinking that a Buck is a drink that can be lengthened with ginger ale OR citrus juice, but a Buck is made with ginger ale or ginger beer, NOT citrus juice. Buck is the Christian name of the Buck's Fizz, not the family name/ surname.
Frank Meier's 1936 Artistry of Mixing Drinks also lists the Buck's Fizz as one of 32 Fizzes with the instruction, "In shaker: the juice of one-half Orange, one-half teaspoon sugar, one-half glass of Gin; shake well, strain into fizz glass, fill with Champagne."
Bucks Fizz in Artistry of Mixing Drinks 1936
Frank Meier's 1936 book is seminal, well at least as this story of two very similar cocktails goes, as it is the first known book to list both the Buck's Fizz and the Mimosa. Meier actually lists the drink as the "Mimosa or Champagne Orange" with the instruction, "In a large wineglass: a piece of Ice, the juice of one-half Orange; fill with Champagne stir and serve."
Mimosa in Artistry of Mixing Drinks 1936
Many a cocktail book and website say that the Mimosa cocktail was created in 1925 by Frank Meier at the Ritz Hotel. Yet in his own book, published 11 years after this supposed creation date, he makes no claim to its origin, despite a note at the front of the book (page 20) stating "Recipes marked were originated by the author" - the Mimosa has no such symbol. Although the drink to the left of it, the Koldkure does. Perhaps the author or publisher omitted the crucial symbol or simply marked the wrong drink.
"Originated by the author" in Artistry of Mixing Drinks 1936
Both The Savoy Cocktail Book and Frank Meier's book also include a cocktail called a Valencia which is similar to both a Mimosa and a Buck's Fizz but is shaken and has the addition of "one-half glass of Apricot Brandy."
The next notable mention of the Buck's Fizz is in W. J. Tarling's 1937 Cafe Royal Cocktail Book with the recipe, "Pour into a tumbler. Two tablespoons orange juice. Fill with champagne." Tarling makes no mention of the Mimosa
1937 Café Royal Cocktail Book Coronation Edition
The 1953 The U.K.B.G. Guide to Drinks also lists the Bucks Fizz with a recipe that specifies a "long glass" and the instruction to "add 1 cube ice". However, across these various book appearances, the consensus is that the Bucks Fizz has a higher proportion of champagne than the Mimosa and is served straight-up while the Mimosa should be served with ice.