The other weekend at the Maryland Hunt Cup I was once again reminded of that classic British summer drink, Pimm's Cup. It's appearance at a picnic or party is one of the many heralds of summer. While there is no rule which states that I cannot enjoy a Pimm's Cup at other times of the year, there is something uniquely satisfying about enjoying foods and beverages in a seasonal rotation. We are sad to say goodbye at the end of that season and eagerly await the day the following year while it makes its first appearance.
I've been drinking Pimm's cup for over 20 year, first being introduced to it at the Virginia Gold Cup Races which are held the first Saturday in May. While many others at the picnic were enjoying their Mint Juleps, it was in the Pimm's Cup that I found my thirst quenched.
In 1823, James Pimm created a gin based "house cup" flavored with liqueurs and fruit extract as an accompaniment to oysters at his famous central London Oyster Bar. This later became known as Pimm's No. 1 Cup. By 1851 he created a scotch based No. 2 Cup and brandy based No. 3 Cup. After World War II, Pimm's created a rum based No. 4 Cup, and the 1960's brought the rye based No. 5 Cup and vodka based No. 6 Cup. Hard times in the 1970s brought an end to most of these other Cups, the No. 6 Cup being produced in very small quantities today and the No. 3 Cup is now infused with spices and orange peel and marketed as Pimm's Winter Cup.
If an American takes a look at the instructions on how to make a Pimm's, they will see that either a lemon-lime soda or ginger ale is recommended. Unfortunately not all things translate well between the Queen's English and American English. A quick look at the official Pimm's website will show the "Pimm's Original" is made using lemonade and the "Pimm's Ginger" is made using ginger ale. These are really two very different tasting drinks, the ginger version being slightly sweeter than the lemonade version.
So what do the English mean by lemonade in the Pimm's Original? Well, I decided to use R. White's lemonade, a brand nearly as old as Pimm's itself, being made since 1845. Perhaps the best way to explain this lemonade to someone who has never tried it is to compare it to those expensive French lemonades you sometimes see at the grocers in the large liter glass bottles. It is dry and carbonated, which works well to balance the natural sweetness of the Pimm's.
So if you are looking for a distinctly British beverage to enjoy a beautiful Spring or Summer afternoon, think about trying a Pimm's. I know that every time I enjoy a Pimm's at the end of a long Winter, I know that Spring has fianlly arrived and I look forward to many more chances to enjoy this classic drink.