The Best Drink You’ve Probably Never Had
Most people in the United States have never had a Pimm’s Cup. Many have never heard of it.
But Pimm’s Cup is very popular as a summer drink in England (along with champagne, it’s the official drink of Wimbledon). It has a relatively low alcohol content, so you can enjoy a couple of tall cool ones at a picnic or sitting out on your patio — and still remain clear-headed.
Best yet, it’s a snap to mix. With Memorial Day a couple of weekends away, you’ve got plenty of time to lay in a supply of Pimm’s and learn how to make this great-tasting drink.
A Pimm’s Cup is made with Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, a gin-based infusion of herbs and quinine.
Any good liquor store will stock it. Just ask for Pimm’s (no one uses the full name, Pimm’s No. 1 Cup). It’s usually shelved with the liqueurs and cordials, although I’ve seen it in the gin section.
This recipe makes one drink. Serve in a tall high-ball or other voluminous glass.
- 1½ ounces of Pimm’s No. 1 Cup (if you have a particularly tall glass, you can increase to 2 ounces)
- 2 ounces fresh lemon juice (juice of 1 large lemon; fresh-squeezed juice tastes much better than commercially prepared, but you can substitute in a pinch)
- ½ - 1 ounce simple syrup (or granular sugar; to taste)
- club soda or plain seltzer water to top up glass
- garnish (optional - cucumber spear or slices, mint, and/or apple, lemon, orange, or strawberry slices; see notes)
- Assemble your ingredients. Juice lemon. Add simple syrup to juice to make lemonade. (Just add a bit of simple syrup, stir to incorporate, taste, and repeat if necessary until the lemonade suits your palate. I prefer lemonade on the tart side, so I use about ½ ounce of simple syrup.)
- Fill tall glass with ice. Add Pimm’s. Add lemonade. Top off with club soda or plain seltzer. Add straw, stir to mix, and garnish as you wish (see notes).
- Pimm’s is not a spirit that anyone would want to drink by itself on the rocks. But mixed in a cocktail, it’s sublime.
- Pimm’s contains 25% alcohol (in the United States alcohol proof is twice the percentage of alcohol, so that’s 50-proof). Most spirits sold today contain 40% alcohol (80-proof), so Pimm’s is a relatively low-alcohol drink.
- This recipe calls for making American “lemonade” — a mixture of lemon juice, sugar, and still water (simple syrup is just sugar and water) — and then adding carbonation in the form of club soda or seltzer. In Britain, the term “lemonade” often means a sweetened, carbonated drink that resembles lemon-lime soda. In fact, many Pimm’s Cup recipes use 7-UP or Sprite instead of (American) lemonade. In my opinion, this version of the drink is much too sweet. But if you want to make it this way, here’s the procedure: Add 1½ ounces of Pimms to the glass, fill to the top with lemon-lime soda, stir with a straw to mix, and there you go.
- You can also substitute ginger ale for lemonade. I haven’t tried it, but many people I respect like this version (Drink Boy, for example).
- If you use ordinary granulated table sugar rather than simple syrup for the lemonade, be prepared to stir a bit to fully dissolve the sugar.
- Traditionally, this drink is served elaborately garnished. It’s very common to see spears or slices of cucumber (preferably English cucumber) and apple. In Britain, many people garnish with borage, a herb that can be difficult to find in the US (so we often use mint instead). It’s also common to see sliced lemons, oranges, and strawberries. The photos that accompany this post illustrate some garnish possibilities. I don’t much like garnishes in drinks, so I usually omit them. However, cucumber does add a pleasant dimension to this drink, so I recommend trying it at least once. And a slice of lemon adds a festive touch.
- If you’re having a party, this is a good drink to prepare by the pitcherful. Simply scale up the recipe as needed. If you’re making it in a large quantity, I would add garnish (to the pitcher). Slices of cucumber, lemon, strawberry, and orange add color and flavor.
- The drink is called Pimm’s Cup because technically it belongs to a class of drinks called Fruit Cups. Fruit Cups are common in Britain, but almost unknown in the US. Traditionally, they are served in summer. They consist of a spirit (usually gin) mixed with a soda (soft drink), fruit, herbs, spices, and/or botanicals.
- The spirit used in this drink is called Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, which implies that there are additional numbered variations. And indeed, at one time Pimm’s made Numbers 2 through 6 , which substituted different base spirits (such as Scotch whisky and rum) for the gin contained in Pimm’s No. 1. Today, only variations No. 3 (brandy-based) and No. 6 (vodka-based) are still made — though in such small quantities that they are not easily found in the US (or anywhere, for that matter).
A Great Barbeque Drink
I mentioned that Pimm’s Cup is an “official” drink at Wimbledon. It’s also de rigueur at the Henley Regatta, the Glyndebourne opera festival, cricket and polo matches, and other summer events that tend to draw what the British call “toffs.” So it’s long been associated with the upper classes — you know, the sorts born with extended pinky fingers.
Here in the US of A, though, most of us don’t know (or care) about the class associations. And we don’t need a regatta to enjoy this very refreshing drink. In fact, Pimm’s Cup makes a great accompaniment to backyard barbeque.
It really does rival a gin and tonic (or a beer!) as a summer cooler. Mrs. Kitchen Riffs enjoys Pimm’s Cup so much that she’s happy to order one year-round.
She’s much classier than I am, so that figures. But I really like Pimm’s Cup too, especially now that the weather is heating up. Many a summer evening, you’ll find me out back manning the Weber grill, Pimm’s in hand.
Though I still haven’t figured out how to drink it with my pinky extended.
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How to Make Simple Syrup
Peg Club Cocktail
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The Classic Daiquiri Cocktail
The Income Tax Cocktail
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