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Host the perfect brunch with an at home Mimosa bar! (Photo credit Kelly Magyarics)

Slay brunch by setting up this killer Mimosa bar

Brunch is one of my favorite ways to entertain. There is something cool about starting--versus ending--the day with friends. Plus, savory dishes like frittatas, quiches and soft-scrambled eggs with chives and smoked trout are super easy to make but never fail to impress. Of course, the best part of the meal is the eye-opening cocktails. I’m generally partial to a salty, spicy Bloody Mary, but when done right, a Mimosa can be just as delightful.

For the last several years, I’ve hosted a play-hooky-from-work-and-other-obligations-weekday-June-brunch for a bunch of my friends, complete with a make-your-own Mimosa bar. It’s festive, fun and trust me, will keep the party going well past lunch.

Here’s how to set one up:

The Tools:

You’ll want several glass pitchers to hold the various juices and ades. I also purchased chalkboard tags, white ribbon and a chalk marker at Michael’s to label each one, along with a small chalkboard stand to list the garnishes. If you want to add an element of cuteness and be on trend, buy a bag of tiny clothespins so guests can clip their preferred garnish to the side of their flute. Speaking of flutes, those are most traditional, but feel free to use regular or stemless wine glasses instead, or even tumblers. White ramekins or any other kind of prep bowls can be used to hold the garnishes. To keep the wine cold, either use a galvanized tub filled with ice, or (less messy) a wine chiller sleeve. And to keep the bubbles going strong after uncorking a bottle, use a Champagne stopper.

The Bubbly:

Okay, as much as I adore Champagne, this is not the time to break out the expensive stuff. Purists may tell you that it’s not a true Mimosa unless it contains a splash of Champagne, but I disagree. I mean, you’re covering up a lot of the flavor with juice, so I think it’s pointless to spring for really spendy wine. That’s not to say you should buy the cheapest bottles of effervescent hooch you can find, either.

I’m partial to Crémants, which are made in France using the same method as Champagne, which means you get a lot of the same character at a fraction of the price. My favorite style is Crémant de Bourgogne, made in Burgundy from chardonnay and/or pinot noir. Look for Blaison de Bourgogne Crémant at Trader Joe’s, or Louis Bouillot at Total Wine. Alternately, uncork a Spanish Cava like Segura Viudas Aria Brut or 1 + 1 = 3, or a traditional method sparkler from the U.S.--Mumm Napa Valley and Gruet from New Mexico are two great producers.

So what about Prosecco? I know it has its legions of fans, and if you like it, by all means drink it.

The Mixers:

No need to reinvent the wheel here and break out the juicer when there are so many great commercially-made products on the shelf with fresh ingredients and no high fructose corn syrup. Of course, orange juice is the standard, but I find that to be the least popular at my brunch parties. To mix things up a little, try one of the other offerings from Simply Orange, which mixes it with mango or pineapple. I also buy their ruby red grapefruit juice, which is tart, refreshing and just dang delicious. The first options to be depleted at my fêtes? Blueberry Lemonade made by (again) Simply Orange, and Minute Maid Mint Lemonade.

The Modifiers:

These are optional--and I actually don’t set them up as part of the bar, mainly because I want us all to make it until at least noon and be productive in the afternoon if we need to be. But if you want a little more flavor, body and alcohol boost in your Mimosa, set our liqueurs like Cointreau, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, Aperol and Campari. A splash is all you need.

The Garnishes:

This is the super fun part that will set your bar apart from the rest (and make your drinks way Instagrammable). Depending on the mixers you pick, cut up lemon, lime or grapefruit peels (use a large swath of each, and try to get as little of the bitter white pith as possible), mint leaves, basil leaves, lavender flowers or leaves, blueberries and strawberries. The possibilities are endless. And if you are garnishing your drink with a citrus peel, don’t just toss it in. Hold it skin side down over your flute, squeeze it lengthwise to release the essential oils into your glass, then rub the skin side over the rim of your glass before dropping it in (or clipping it to the side.) Ditto for herbs: smack them in the palm of your hand to release their oils before putting them into the drink. After all, a garnish should be about aroma and flavor, not just aesthetics.

The Combinations:

One of the most fun things about this party (besides the laughs and conversation, of course) is finding our own perfect combination of bubbly, mixer and garnish. And if you end up making a cocktail you don’t absolutely love? There’s always the next one. Here are a few to start you off:

  • Grapefruit Mimosa with grapefruit peel and basil
  • Mint Lemonade Mimosa with lavender and lemon peel
  • Blueberry Lemonade Mimosa with blueberry and mint
  • Orange Mango Mimosa with orange peel