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Mimosa, Kir, Bellini and Bucks Fizz

Wine has long been used as an ingredient in mixed drinks, both at the time of drinking and for commercially bottled beverages such as Vermouth.

In hot weather the simple addition of iced water to white wine makes a refreshing long drink. Use sparkling water instead and you have a Spritzer.

Orange juice and sparkling wine make two famous wine drinks, Mimosa and Bucks Fizz. There are subtle differences between the two. Mimosa, invented in 1921 at the Ritz Hotel, Paris, has equal parts orange juice and sparkling wine, while the Buck’s Fizz has two parts orange juice. And while the alcohol in a Mimosa can come from any fizz, for a Buck’s Fizz it should properly be Champagne.

Buck’s Fizz was created in 1921 by Pat McGarry, the bartender at Buck’s Club, a gentlemen’s club in London, that featured in the Jeeves books by P G Wodehouse as the Drone’s Club. Whether one can make a true Buck’s Fizz is questionable as there is said to be an additional secret ingredient known only to the current barman at Buck’s Club.

We don’t know who invented the Kir but we know for whom it is named. The Kir is a mixed drink of dry white wine and crème de cassis, a liqueur made from blackcurrants. Canon Felix Kir, a Catholic Priest and hero of the French resistance during the Second World War was elected mayor of Dijon in 1945. His favourite tipple was a measure of crème de cassis topped up with white wine which he served at official functions. Dijon is in the Burgundy fine wine region known for its Chardonnay but the Kir was made from the much lesser known Aligote grape which can make a very sharp thin wine. So crème de cassis made the wine more palatable, but it is said that Canon Kir was showing his support for local blackcurrant farmers.

When I have enjoyed a Kir in Dijon the proportions seem to be two parts of blackcurrant liqueur to eight of wine, but elsewhere there is a greater measure of wine. When Champagne is used you have a Kir Royale, but if the another sparkling wine then it is a Kir Pétillant.

The Bellini was invented by Giuseppe Cipriani who owned the famous Harry's Bar in Venice. It is said he visited the USA after the war and returned with a newly invented electric blender, the very first seen in Italy.

This new technology enabled him to easily make a puree of fresh white peaches to which he added the local Prosecco sparkling wine. The pale pink colour of the drink reminded him of a paint shade used by 15th Century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini and the cocktail got its name. Nowadays one can buy cans of peach puree: add one measure to a glass and top up with two measures of Prosecco.

What do you mix with your wine? Tell us on our forum.

Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape.


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