The Summer of Pimm’s
If this weather is any indication – we have a long hot summer ahead of us. We’re just in early May and we’re already seeing mid-to-high twenties. Shorts, patios & flip flops. Each summer tends to bring the next popular cocktail that somehow finds itself in the media stream & onto seemingly every cocktail menu in town.
Our prediction for Summer 2016 – The Pimm’s Cup.
A little background:
James Pimm was a farmer’s son from Kent turned London oyster bar owner. In the mid-1800s he created a gin-based tonic containing a secret mixture of herbs and liqueurs. It was originally meant to be an aid to digestion. He served it in a small tankard known as a “No. 1 Cup”, it wasn’t long before the name of the tankard took hold and became the name of the drink itself. The beverage quickly caught on in his tiny neighborhood with word of this delicious mixture spreading fast. Pimm’s began large-scale production in 1851 to keep up with not only the demand of his libation in his own Oyster bar, but also sales to other bars throughout London.
Over the years, Pimm’s extended his range, using other spirits as bases for new “cups”. In 1851, Pimm’s No. 2 Cup and Pimm’s No. 3 Cup were introduced. After WWII, Pimm’s No. 4 Cup was invented, followed by Pimm’s No. 5 Cup and Pimm’s No. 6 Cup in the 1960s. The brand fell on hard times in the 1970s and 1980s, likely due to the increasing popularity of drinks that were sweet and sugary. The Oyster House chain was sold and Pimm’s Cup products Nos. 2 – 5 were phased out due to reduced demand in 1970 after new owners The Distillers Company had taken control. Since 1970 Pimm’s has been sold to Guinness and then subsequently to current owners, Diageo. Although for decades, Pimm’s has been found at pretty much every bar out there – there was a good stint where bartenders weren’t exactly sure what to do with it.
Pimm’s is dark-brown in colour with a reddish tint, and tastes subtly of spice & citrus fruit. As a summer long drink, it is also commonly served with “English-style” (clear and carbonated) lemonade (aka Sprite or 7up), as well as various chopped garnishes, particularly apples, cucumber, oranges, lemon, strawberry, and mint. Ginger ale is a common substitute for lemonade. Pimm’s can also be mixed with Champagne (or a sparkling white wine), called a “Pimm’s Royal Cup”. Pimm’s Winter Cup is generally mixed with warm apple juice.
Pimm’s is most popular in England, particularly southern England. It is one of the two staple drinks at Wimbledon with the other being Champagne. A Pimm’s is also the standard cocktail at British and American polo matches. It is extremely popular at the summer garden parties of British universities.
The other side of the story:
Another city lays claim to the cocktail’s popularity as well – New Orleans of all places. The following story, taken from a 2012 article in the New York Times by Robert Simonson, proclaims the drink was made popular in the Crescent City by The Napoleon House bar in the French Quarter in the late 1940s. The proprietor was looking for a cocktail that would be refreshing in the New Orleans heat but wouldn’t be so high in alcohol that he would lose his patrons to an early night. Pimm’s, at 25% alcohol and usually served in a one-part alcohol to three-parts mixer ratio, seemed a perfect solution; exactly how he first came across the drink isn’t clear – perhaps an over-zealous Londoner travelling with a cache of Pimm’s in his carry-on? Either way, the popularity of the bar, and the drink, grew exponentially and now many of those from NOLA claim the Pimm’s Cup as their own, seeming to forget its London origins. The Pimm’s Cup is still found consumed by the gallon at Napoleon House.
Seven Pimm’s products have been produced, all fruit, differing only in their base alcohol: Only Nos. 1, 6, and a ‘Winter Cup’ based on No. 3 remain.
- Pimm’s No. 1 Cup is the most popular version. Based on gin, its base as bottled is 25 percent alcohol by volume.
- Pimm’s No. 2 Cup was based on scotch whisky.
- Pimm’s No. 3 Cup was based on brandy. A version infused with spices and orange peel marketed as Pimm’s Winter Cup is now seasonally available.
- Pimm’s No. 4 Cup was based on rum.
- Pimm’s No. 5 Cup was based on rye whisky.
- Pimm’s No. 6 Cup is based on vodka. It is still produced, but in small quantities.
Method of the Classic Pimm’s No. 1 Cup Cocktail
2oz Pimm’s No. 1 Cup
1/2oz lemon juice
Ginger ale or ginger beer
In a tall glass add Pimm’s & lemon juice. Fill with ice & top with ginger ale. Stir and garnish.
Common garnish options:
Apple, mint, cucumber, strawberry, fresh red berries, lemon wedge or wheel, fresh herbs such as tarragon or thyme.
There are endless variations of the Pimm’s Cup, with each garnish change or mix augmenting the drink to take on a new life. Popular variations include the addition of Gin to make the proof stronger, the addition of various fruit purees or the adjustment of mix from ginger ale to an alocholized ginger beer. There is really only one rule when crafting a Pimm’s Cup variation – garnish plentifully.
P.S. I Love You – Available at all Donnelly Public Houses
Phillips Stump gin, Pimm’s No 1 Cup, strawberry, ginger beer, lemon, cucumber, mint