The Road To Pimm’s Expertise!
The weather in Britain being what it is, it’s never entirely clear when spring ends, and summer begins. According to the Met Office, it starts on the first of June. By the astronomical calendar, it begins on the 21st of June, the longest day of the year.
For most of us, I suspect, it’s rather indistinct, and depends on a combination of things like the weather, the amount of daylight, the appearance of the plants and birds around us, and so on. And among the signs that we rely on, consciously or otherwise, is the appearance of Pimm’s in bars, restaurants and pubs.
The Quintessential British Summer Drink
Pimm’s is the quintessential British summer drink, and its appearance effectively heralds the arrival of summer in these islands. It’s uniquely British, which is in one way a little strange: it’s a delightful warm-weather drink, yet it’s popularity in the UK isn’t mirrored in other countries. You would have thought that there might be a big market for Pimm’s in countries where the weather is hot for more of the year, or even all year round. Alas, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
The drink was invented in the 1840s by Mr James Pimm, the landlord of an oyster bar in the City of London, near the Bank of England. He offered a gin-based drink containing a secret mix of herbs as an aid to digestion, served in a small tankard known as a ‘No 1 cup’. In later years, new versions were developed: No. 2 and No. 3 in the 1850s, then Nos. 4 to 6 after the Second World War, but these were subsequently phased out, and although new versions like the Winter Cup have appeared in recent years, No. 1 is the main product.
A Classic Combination
Nowadays, a Pimm’s is still the classic combination of Pimm’s No1 mixed with lemonade, to which is added mint, orange, and strawberries, or other fruit, all garnished with cucumber, and served with lots of ice. It’s the perfect summer party drink: straightforward to prepare, delicious, refreshing, and always popular with guests.
A jug of Pimm’s, (and it’s always best in a jug), made with good ingredients and a little attention to detail is a thing of beauty. It’s a delight for the eyes and taste buds alike. There are various ways in which you can tweak the drink to give a result that retains the classic Pimm’s feel, but is also slightly different.
Tweaks For Pimm’s Perfectionists
Before anything else, make sure you use sufficient base spirit: at least 1 part of Pimm’s to 3 parts of lemonade. Too little and your drink will end up dilute like fruit squash. It’s also well worth using a good quality lemonade: if you prefer something less sweet, consider using tonic water instead. Other mixer alternatives are ginger beer and sparkling wine, all of which give a Pimm’s with a kick.
The classic Pimm’s garnishes include mint, orange, strawberries and cucumber. A sprig of mint at the top of the glass looks pretty, but for flavour it’s a good idea to bash the leaves a bit before adding them. As an alternative to mint, consider borage, or even basil.
You might also like to try combining Pimm’s, oranges and mint in a jug, and keeping the mixture in the fridge for the flavours to steep. Strawberries and other soft fruit, however, should be added just before serving, or they will go mushy. The lemonade should also be added at the end, as you don’t want it going flat.
Use lots of ice to keep the whole thing cold and refreshing. The ice will only dilute the mixture if your guests nurse their drink for too long, but with Pimm’s that’s unlikely to happen.
Pimm’s New Orleans Style
Although Pimm’s isn’t well known outside Britain, there’s one notable exception to the rule. Pimm’s is popular in New Orleans, so much so that many residents think it’s a local drink. Pimm’s New Orleans style is similar to the British version, but is served with a squeeze of lime, cucumber and a hint of mint, leaving out all the other fruit typically used in Britain.
Now that summer’s here (more or less) it’s time to get the Pimm’s out. Experiment with mixers, the kind of fruit you add and serving methods, and maybe you’ll develop your own twist on this much-loved classic. Do let us know what you discover!