We had our first really warm day of the year out here in Burque – hell, I can say it. It was downright hot. 91. And by hot, I mean perfect. Especially toward evening. And so, after a long winter’s hiatus, and a long day working in the yard, I determined it was time to get back to what is, to me, the perfect summer drink – the Pimm’s Cup.
Pimm’s No. 1, which you’ve probably seen on your liquor store shelf hundreds of times without paying it any mind (unless you’re English or otherwise already privy to its greatness), is a gin-based fruit cup – or more accurately, a standardized, bottled approximation thereof. Fruit cups were, back in 19th-century England (and probably earlier) something akin to sangria, but with a spirit base instead of wine. Bars, taverns, public houses – whatever you would have called them back then – would often mix up a big batch of fruit cup, starting with, say, gin, adding various chunks of fruit, some herbs and spices, some water to cut the strength, and there you go. This was an English thing, by the way. And done primarily in summer (because back then, that would be about the only time you’d have fruit). In fact, fruit cups are also known as summer cups. Over time, some crafty entrepreneurial types figured they could bottle and sell fruit cups, and the most successful of these was one James Pimm, who by 1851 was bottling on a large scale and selling his Pimm’s Cup to other public houses. In time, more varieties, based on different spirits, were added, which is why this one is Pimm’s Cup No. 1. The other numbers have more or less disappeared in recent decades, although you may be able to find Nos. 3 and 6 in the UK if you’re lucky.
There are myriad recipes for the Pimm’s Cup (the drink, not the product – a tad confusing since they basically have the same name). They are all more or less similar, the biggest variation being whether to use 7-Up or ginger ale. I am firmly in the ginger ale camp. I’m also firmly in the cucumber camp. Never thought I’d say that, but there it is.
Squeeze the juice of half a lemon (or a bit less if it’s a big lemon) into a highball glass. Add a slice of fresh cucumber, about 1/4 inch thick. Muddle.* Fill the glass about 3/4 with ice. Then fill with roughly 1/3 Pimm’s No. 1 Cup and 2/3 ginger ale.
Pimm’s isn’t especially strong, about 25% ABV, so this doesn’t pack much of a punch. I’m not even going to try to describe the flavor. It’s not ginny at all. More herbal/spicy (spicy as in spices, not as in hot). Mostly, it’s just good, and incredibly refreshing on a warm evening at the end of a hot day. Magical, really. Five livers.
To muddle effectively, you’ll need a muddler. Any decent liquor or kitchen supply store should be able to sell you one. Or buy one here. A good home bar should not be without one.