Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Pair of Pimm’s Cups

Summer’s sort of here, more or less, so yesterday I headed off to the farmers market at the Ferry Building to buy herbs. (It was in a driving rain, but never mind. Keeps the crowds in check.) My haul included some lemon basil that I didn’t really have a plan for, but it’s generally true that if you come back with some weird herb you don’t know what to do with, stick it in a Pimm’s Cup. Truly, this works with just about anything. (Avoid those garlic chives.) Lavender? Throw it in there. Hyssop? Have at it. (What is hyssop, anyway?) There ought to be Pimm’s Cup bars, where you can choose your garnish, choose your mixer, and then head out onto a lawn to stumble around till you get hit with a tennis ball.

For those who haven’t had a Pimm’s or haven’t even heard of one, this is a classic English long drink with a gin-based, bottled concoction called Pimm’s No. 1 (there have been other numbers with different bases) and bitter lemon, fizzy lemonade, ginger beer or the like. The traditional garnishes include cucumber, fruit and fresh herbs. Personally, it was the cucumber that got me. As someone with a deep, compulsive desire to stick weird stuff in his glass, I knew I had to have this thing.

Pimm’s Cup is not particularly strong, which is nice, I suppose, if you want several of them on a hot day. Of the recipes I found in the house this afternoon, Gaz Regan’s has the best feeling for form. (He’s English, of course.)

Pimm’s Cup
  • 2 oz Pimm’s No. 1
  • 5-7 oz ginger ale, lemon-lime soda or club soda (Fever Tree bitter lemon)
  • 1 sliver cucumber rind, for garnish
Build in a 16-oz glass. Add the garnish.

Basically, you grab a beer glass of ice, pour in two ounces of Pimm’s No. 1 and a bottle of bitter lemon and your garnish. I did a long spear of English cucumber. Scoring the cucumber with a zester is a nice touch and gives you more of the peel aroma. I added my lemon basil and a few slices of Meyer lemon. For the photo, I used a battered old pint glass to demonstrate that you don’t need fancy glassware to make this look good.

I’m sipping this in a closed bedroom right now. A butterfly settled on the glass. It’s sort of like Tiki only imagine you’re sitting in the garden with someone who chain smokes and has a voice like Marianne Faithfull.

Not everybody likes cucumber. I am reliably informed that a small minority find it unbearable. My housemate happens to be one of them. No matter. Stick something else in there. If you feel like it, you could go really crazy and add liquor. I recommend gin, which makes the drink a Turbo.

Pimm’s Turbo
  • 1 1/2 Pimm’s No. 1
  • 1 oz gin (Tanqueray)
  • bitter lemon or ginger (Fever Tree ginger beer)
  • garnishes to taste
Build in a pint glass over ice. Add garnishes.

I used ginger beer this time—my favorite soda for any Pimm’s drink. I also went crazy with the citrus, which looks cool and makes for a very fresh drink as the flavors develop—if you can resist sucking the whole thing down in one go. For the leafy part, I had some mint, which smelled good with the ginger. (Note the bee, who liked it too.) Remember to spank your mint—not just because Pimm’s is sometimes associated with the boarding school set, but to release the aroma. Slap the sprig once gently between your hands and arrange it in the top of the glass.


  1. Rowen's long-winded post finally reveals itself, and I'm not disappointed.

    I can't manage to like Pimm's, but I'm still working on it. Its flavor is way too subtle for my tastes.

  2. I figured I might as well go all out for Pimm’s. I just get a kick out of garnishing the thing lavishly enough to feed a hippopotamus.


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