Buck's Fizz: How The Perennially Festive Drink Was Invented In A Mayfair Club

Buck's Fizz: How The Perennially Festive Drink Was Invented In A Mayfair Club

In this edited extract from Signature Cocktails by Amanda Schuster, we discover the origins of that perenially festive favourite, the Buck's Fizz.

A glass of Buck's Fizz
The Buck's Fizz, is name after the Buck's Club in Mayfair, which exists to this day.

Peruse the ready-to-drink aisle in a British supermarket and you will find bottled and canned versions of modern classics, such as Bramble, Espresso Martini, endless combinations of gin and tonic, and even a Porn Star Martini. And if you don't feel like purchasing separate bottles of bubbly and orange juice, you can also opt for ready-to-drink Mimosas, or that distinctly British brunch classic, the Buck's Fizz.

Consider the Buck's Fizz the older, bubblier, British sibling to the Mimosa. It was invented in London in 1921 at the gentlemen-only Buck's Club by bartender Malachi "Pat" McGarry. He was also known for popularising French-born drinks, the Sidecar, so christened because it was potent enough to "take you for a ride."

McGarry was the personal bartender of Captain Herbert John Buckmaster, who ran the Buck's Club in Mayfair. (The Buck's Club inspired the fictional Drones club that features heavily in the books of P.G. Wodehouse, where Bertie Wooster often goes to hatch plans, drown sorrows, and generally get a little 'tight'.)  An account from Buck's Club secretary Captain Peter Murison reports that while he was in the process of divorcing actress Gladys Cooper, Buckmaster often had McGarry with him while hosting parties with movie and theatre glitterati as well as club members. One of the members, having heard tell of a certain peach and champagne cocktail from "the continent," requested one from McGarry.

McGarry came up with his own concoction in 1921, replacing the peach with orange juice and adding a few ingredients the club keeps secret (drinks historians Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown discovered a 1950s recipe — "Champagne Buck" — which calls for the addition of gin and cherry brandy, which certainly can't hurt). Champagne and orange juice — technically the same as a Mimosa, but with just a splash of juice instead of topping it off.

How to make a Buck's Fizz

Traditional

• 31/2 oz (100 ml) champagne or other dry bubbly
• 1/4 oz (7 ml) orange juice (preferably fresh)

Fill a flute or wine glass with the bubbly. Top with the orange juice. Add an orange twist, if you’re feeling fancy.

1950s Champagne Buck

• 2 oz (60 ml) fresh squeezed orange juice
• 3 oz (90 ml) Champagne or other dry bubbly
• Splash of London dry gin
• Dash of cherry brandy
• Garnish: orange twist

Build the drink in a flute or wine glass. Stir. Add the orange twist to garnish.

The book cover

Signature Cocktails by Amanda Schuster,published by Phaidon

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Last Updated 19 December 2023