Monday, May 9, 2011

Pimm’s Cup – The Perfect Summer Cocktail

Pimm's Cup Cocktail

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.

Pimm's Cup Cocktail

Recipe: Pimm’s Cup

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)
  1. 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.)
  2. 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.

Pimm's Cup Cocktail

You may also enjoy reading about:

How to Make Simple Syrup
Peg Club Cocktail
Mai Tai Cocktail
The Classic Daiquiri Cocktail
The Income Tax Cocktail
The Sazerac Cocktail
The Corpse Reviver Cocktail


Lucy@The Sweet Touch said...

I had Pimms for the first time last summer (in England) and I LOVED it! You are right, it's cool and refreshing without knocking you on your butt:) Thanks for reminding me of this delish drink!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi, Lucy, thanks for the comment. It really is an enjoyable drink.

Nicky @dirtandmartinis said...

Absolutely gorgeous pictures! I'm looking forward to trying this cocktail this summer. Thanks!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Thanks for the compliment on the pictures, Nicky! It's not only a pretty looking drink, it's great tasting, too!

Katherine said...

Two of my best friends live in New Orleans, perhaps the only American city obsessed with Pimm's Cups, and I get my fill every time I visit them. Great recipe and photos. Perfect way to welcome in the warmer weather!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Katherine, thanks! You're right that New Orleans is a great place to get a Pimm's (a Sazerac, too). Thanks for stopping by.

Katherine said...

Hello again! Just wanted to let you know that I mention and link to your recipe on a post I did on simple syrups and summer cocktails :-)

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Katherine, thanks for the reference to my post! I've been on vacation the last couple of weeks (Alaska!) so I've fallen behind in my blog reading, so I'll put your blog first on my list. Thanks again.

FJKramer said...

I always order a Pimm's Cup when I see it on a cocktail menu. Thanks for giving it some more visibility.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi FJK, thanks for stopping by! Pimm's Cup is great, isn't it? I've heard from a lot of people who haven't had one before, tried it, and really liked it.

Baba said...

Love my Pimm's Cups! Brings back memories of honeymoon in St. Kitts 20 years ago. Up there with Negronis in my book.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Baba, Pimm's Cup is a great drink. Haven't had one yet this season, but I'm sure I will soon. The Negroni is also lovely, particularly in warm weather (pretty good in cold weather, too!). Thanks for taking time to comment.

Nusrat Azim said...

Look at the second shot ! Sooooooo picture perfect drink ! Soooooooo gorgeous !

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Suborna, this really is a swell drink, and perfect for warmer weather! Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

Anonymous said...

Another fantastic, classic cocktail. I'm glad Anne told me about your site, you've got some great drink posts and with a 4 day weekend upon me I think I may need to try as many of these as I can. Cheers!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi loafofbeer, the Pimm's cup is a wonderful drink! Worth a 4 day weekend in itself. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Marcelle said...

I have to try this cocktail! Sounds really refreshing and I love trying something new...well, new to me anyway! Nice post!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Marcelle, this is a terrific drink! Loads of flavor, and very refreshing. Thanks for the comment.

Jean | said...

I've been drinking Pimm's for decades, and I completely agree with you about using freshly squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup and seltzer instead of a sugary (make that HFCS'y!) lemon-lime soda.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Jean, love freshly squeezed lemon juice! And it's wonderful in a Pimm's. :-) Thanks for the comment.

Chef Mimi said...

I consider myself extremely lucky, because I was introduced to pimm’s in 1979. It was right after I moved to Dallas for my first job, which is why I remember - i moved in ‘78 but it took me a while to make friends, and one turned me on to pimm’s. I wasn’t even a drinker back then, but who couldn’t love pimm’s?!! When I went to London with my daughter when she moved there, I made sure one of the first drinks we had was Pimm’s. I also discovered summer cup there.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Mimi, you discovered Pimm's way before I did! It's such a good drink, isn't it? We have a Pimm's at least once every two or three weeks during warm weather -- one of our favorites. Thanks for the comment.

Valentina said...

I saw this on your sidebar and jumped back a handful of years I see. The picture was calling to me so I had to check it out. Not only have I never had it, but I've never even heard of it. I'll be on a mission to have one before summer ends. :-) ~Valentina

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Valentina, this is SO worth trying! One of our favorite drinks. :-) Thanks for the comment.