Anyone for Pimm’s?

1st July 2016 Recipes

As we enjoy these lovely, longer days of summer, we thought we would take a look at what has to be the most quintessential of British summer drinks – Pimm’s.

Of course Pimm’s goes with Wimbledon and the Chelsea Flower Show like strawberries & cream and champagne, but what are the origins of this delicious tawny coloured gin based drink that the British love to enjoy during the Summer months?

It was in the late 1840’s that James Pimm, a farmer’s son from Kent and the landlord of an oyster bar in the City of London, originally invented and marketed the drink as a health tonic. He offered the tonic (a gin based drink containing a secret mixture of herbs and liqueurs) as an aid to digestion, serving it in a small tankard known as a No. 1 Cup, hence its subsequent name. The mixture became so popular that he began selling his top secret concoction commercially in 1851 and then globally as the British Empire reached into India, Canada, Australia and the Caribbean. In 1865, Pimm sold the business and the right to use his name to Frederick Sawyer and in 1880, the business was acquired by future Lord Mayor of London Horatio Davies, and a chain of Pimm’s Oyster Houses was franchised.

The range was extended over the years to include other spirits as their base including Pimm’s No. 2 Cup based on Scotch Whisky, No. 3 cup based on Brandy, No. 4 cup based on rum, No. 5 cup, based on rye whisky and No. 6 cup based on vodka. All of these mixtures are now phased out with the exception of a limited production of No. 6 and No. 3 which is currently sold as Pimm’s Winter Cup (similar to a mulled wine). It is Pimm’s No. 1 Cup that is the most popular version and the foundation of the eponymous cocktail, based on gin, its base is 25 percent alcohol by volume.

Pimm’s has a dark brown colour with a reddish tint and has subtle taste of spice and citrus fruit. As a long summer it is also commonly served with lemonade, as well as various chopped garnishes, particularly apples, cucumber, oranges, lemons, strawberry and mint or borage, though nowadays most substitute this for mint. Ginger ale is also a popular substitute for lemonade.

What you might not know is that Pimm’s is also wildly popular in New Orleans, Louisiana. Locals and tourists alike can be seen on humid summer evenings enjoying a cool, local and equally refreshing version of Pimm’s in the Big Easy.

Back here in Britain, the Pimm’s Oyster Houses might be long gone but this great British drink which is full of history and tradition is certainly here to stay and the next time you enjoy a glass with friends, you can impress them with your knowledge about this fascinating and delicious concoction!

British Pimm’s recipe

Lots of fresh fruit (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, sliced oranges and cherries)
Sliced cucumber

Method: Fill a pitcher with ice. Add a large handful of a variety of fresh fruit. Add a few slices of cucumber. Add 1 part Pimm’s to 3 parts Lemonade. Stir. Top with a squeeze of lime and a bit of mint.