The mimosa's bright, sunny blend of rich orange juice and crisp, dry Champagne is irresistibly festive. A staple at special-occasion brunches, it contains enough wine to brighten your day but remains light enough to not turn your head. Although the classic form of this cocktail specifies Champagne as the source of its bubbles, the price of the genuine article rather discourages its use as a "mixer." The world's winemaking regions furnish many fine alternatives that are often easier on your budget.
French Is Fine
Real Champagne comes from one small corner of France, where it's made from specific grapes through a carefully controlled method. It's remarkably good, but -- unsurprisingly -- other parts of France are similarly adept at producing high-quality sparkling wines. Bottles from the Loire and other regions can give your mimosa the necessary crispness and body, at prices well below those of Champagne's flagship cuvees. They're usually labeled as "cremant," or "creamy," a reference to the wine's very fine, long-lasting mousse. Look for bottles labeled "extra-brut," or very dry. The best will also say "methode champenoise," meaning they're made by the same method as true Champagne.
A Continental Breakfast
Virtuosity in the production of bubbles isn't a French monopoly. Across the Pyrenees in Spain, the local bubbly -- known as "cava" -- can be just as good. Premium cavas command a fair dollar in their own right, but even value-priced specimens frequently boast a beautifully crisp, toasty finish and fine, long-lasting bubbles. Italy's prosecco and spumante wines are more variable, ranging from dry and memorable to sweet and sticky. Spend a few minutes interrogating the staff at your local wine store, or researching online, to narrow down your choices.
Brave New World
American winemakers, and their peers in Latin America, Australia and New Zealand, are no slouches in the sparkling-wine department. The finest New World sparklers measure up well against the iconic French wines, and value-priced New World wines can be remarkably good. As a rule you'll see the traditional French terminology used on the bottle, so "extra-brut," and especially, "methode champenoise," remain useful additions to your vocabulary.
Think Outside the Magnum
As ingratiating as Mimosas are, it is possible to tire of the "same old, same old." Lend some life to this stalwart favorite with unconventional choices. For example, the limited number of sparkling roses and sparkling reds -- usually Shiraz -- can lend a dramatic hue to your Mimosa, especially if paired with the juice of blood oranges. Alternatively, don't use a wine at all. Wheat-based beers make an agreeable variation on the theme. German weissbier, with its notes of spice and tropical fruit; or Belgian-style witbier, with its orange and coriander, both make for a stellar "beermosa."