Wednesday, July 17, 2013
pimm's cup | cocktail
A theme that will emerge on this blog is my love for fruity fizzy drinks. We are kicking off Steven’s cocktail column with one of my favorites, the Pimm’s Cup. Wimbledon may be over, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying this perfect summer cocktail.
Take it away, Steven!
Pimm’s No. 1 Cup was invented somewhere between 1823 and 1840, concocted by James Pimm as a digestive aid, comprised of gin, quinine, and herbs. The popularity of Pimm’s No. 1 Cup began to grow when James Pimm became the owner of an oyster bar near the Bank of London in London’s financial district. His success allowed him to expand his business and he built up a chain of restaurants catering to businessmen of the day, all serving his No. 1 Cup by the pint. By 1851, Pimm’s No. 1 Cup had become popular enough that large-scale production began to keep up with demand by other bars and gentlemen’s clubs, and by 1859 it began being sold to the general public. In 1865, James Pimm sold the business and naming rights to Frederick Sawyer, who in turn sold it in 1880 to Sir Horatio Davies, who later became the Lord Mayor of London. Over the years, Pimm’s developed many other fruit cups, known as No. 2 through No. 6, utilizing different base spirits. No. 2 and No. 3, based on Scotch whiskey and brandy respectively, were introduced in 1851. Pimm’s No. 4 cup, based on rum, was released after World War 2. Finally, Pimm’s No. 5 and No. 6, based on rye whiskey and vodka respectively, were introduced in the 1960s. Unfortunately, when the popularity of Pimm’s declined in the 1970s, the less popular No. 2 through No. 5 were discontinued, but if you search hard enough, you may be lucky enough to find Pimm’s No. 6 Cup (though I’ve never seen it). Pimm’s recently reintroduced the brandy-based Pimm’s No. 3 Cup as Pimm’s Winter Cup, which I was lucky enough to come across at a friend’s party and found it very drinkable mixed with apple cider.
I originally discovered this cocktail while searching for a classy and low proof cocktail, as my wife (girlfriend at the time) is a bit sensitive to alcohol. I can’t recall exactly how I came across the Pimm’s Cup, but it certainly fit the bill. The Pimm’s Cup, though relatively underappreciated in the United States, is sometimes considered the second most popular drink in the England, second to tea obviously, and is associated with many of the events attended by the well-to-do. Alongside champagne, it is the official drink of the Wimbledon tennis tournament, the Henley Royal Regatta, and the Glyndebourne Festival Opera. In addition, it is also the standard drink at polo matches and at summer garden parties. The closest analog that we have in the United States is the association of the Mint Julep with the Kentucky Derby, but that is a relatively limited association in comparison.
I have to admit, I had a very difficult time finding the origins of the Pimm’s Cup as a cocktail, I figure because it is analogous to trying to find the origins of the rum and coke. If anyone knows more about how the Pimm’s Cup came to be as a cocktail, I’d love to know more.
Instead I will cover a little more about the Pimm’s Cup recipe. The “official” recipe for a Pimm’s Cup, as called for on the bottle, is 1 part Pimm’s No. 1 Cup combined with 3 parts lemonade, garnished with mint, cucumber, orange, and strawberry. Lemonade, as referred to in England, is not the lemonade that we are generally familiar with being sold on the roadside by 6-year-olds everywhere, but is actually closer to a lemon-lime soda such as 7-Up or Sprite. I’ve never actually had British lemonade before, but I find using 7-Up or Sprite in this recipe results in an overly sweet cocktail. Making your own lemon soda is very easy, which I detail below, but another acceptable substitute is ginger ale. I elect to use slightly different garnishes than those called for in the official recipe, as I remember reading somewhere in my original search for the Pimm’s Cup that the garnishes were originally native to England. Because of that, I forgo the orange and substitute it with apple. As for the mint, borage is actually the traditional herb used to garnish a Pimm’s cup, apparently having a flavor profile similar to cucumber. Unfortunately I’ve never tasted borage so I can’t really speak to what it adds to a Pimm’s Cup.
PDT Cocktail Book
2 oz Pimm’s No. 1 Cup
0.75 oz lemon juice
0.5 oz simple syrup
3 cucumber slices
Muddle cucumber and simple syrup
Add Pimm’s and lemon juice, shake on ice and strain into Collins glass filled with ice
Top with 1 oz. Fever-Tree ginger ale
Garnish with cucumber wheel
2 oz Pimm’s No. 1 Cup
6 oz “lemonade” (see below)
Add spear to Collins glass, followed by ice.
Add sliced strawberries.
Add sliced apple.
Add a little more ice.
Strained lemon juice, ~2 oz. from 2 lemons.
Mix up lemonade (see below).
Add Pimm's No. 1 Cup to Collins glass.
Garnish with borage if possible, mint is an acceptable substitute.
1 oz strained lemon juice
0.5 to 1 oz simple syrup (1:1) to taste
Club soda to 6 oz.
It’s been too long since I’ve enjoyed a classic Pimm’s Cup and I have to say after the lengthy process of preparing one and taking photos, it was very refreshing. I leaned towards making my lemonade tarter this time, only using 0.5 oz simple syrup as my wife enjoys things more on the tart side. This is a very refreshing and light cocktail, with the unique flavor provided by Pimm’s No. 1 Cup. It is sweet, sour, fruity, and mildly herbal. The strawberry and apple lend a pleasant fruity aroma to the cocktail and are a tasty treat when eaten. It can be difficult to fish the garnishes out of the cocktail, so I ended up pulling out a cocktail pick to spear the pieces of strawberry and apple. The cucumber serves as a very refreshing and becomes very crisp after soaking in the ice cold cocktail. It’s difficult to stop after just a single cocktail, so feel free to help yourself to a second one (or third), since it is luckily quite light on the alcohol. This also makes it very friendly for entertaining others without destroying them before the end of the evening.
Some people like to fortify their Pimm’s Cup with a bit of additional gin, or add a different dimension of sweetness by using a splash of a liqueur such as St. Germain or orange liqueur. Additionally, if you do not have access to Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, there are some recipes floating around on how make a homemade Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, which is roughly 2 parts gin, 2 parts sweet vermouth, and 1 part orange liqueur. The lemonade in a Pimm’s Cup can be substituted with ginger ale, as mentioned before, resulting in a slightly spicier cocktail. In terms of garnish, other fruits are acceptable, for as a fruit cup cocktail, whatever is native and in season will work pretty well.