Aug. 27, 2008 - Issue #671: The Bullshit Issue
No 1 for summer
I Hardly Know ‘Er
Maybe today’s the day you should relax, take in some sun, and enjoy a classic summer drink. Summer drinks are usually associated with hot places: Spanish sangria, Brazilian mojito, Caribbean rum punch. These places know sun, but their people aren’t familiar with lack of light. For a change, why not try a drink that is truly bittersweet? Pimm’s No 1 is a summer classic from the Brits, who, like us, know what it’s like to store up sun in preparation for grey days to come.
Pimm’s has a long history, originating in 1823. James Pimm created and served the gin-based beverage as a digestive tonic at his oyster bar. Its composition is based on the sling, an old mixed-drink category. Before the cocktail, there was the sling, a basic-as-you-want-it-to-be mix of alcohol, sugar, water (sparkling or still), and possibly fruit, especially citrus. Pimm used this model, infusing a mix of herbs to create his secret recipe. The drink caught on, and Pimm soon began selling a bottled version to neighbouring bars. Variations of the drink, numbered 2 through 6 and based on different spirits, were developed and eventually abandoned. Pimm’s No 1 remained, and became an old standby.
Looking at Pimm’s and its rich tea-brown colour, it’s not hard to see its Englishness. The flavour has citrus sweetness and herbal complexity. Neither too sweet nor too bitter, the taste of Pimm’s is light and refreshing, Britishly restrained. It can be served alone on ice, or, most commonly, in the drink that defines English summer—the Pimm’s cup. Last year, 150 000 glasses of Pimm’s Cup were sold at Wimbledon alone.
The Pimm’s Cup is a good sangria alternative, as it’s highly decorative, filled with farmer’s market bounty. Think berries, apples, even cherries if you want. It’s a riot of summer. Toss in slices of orange and lime, don’t forget the essential cucumber, and don’t neglect your garnish. Mint is perfect, and you can always drop some in to steep in the alcohol as well. It compliments the herbal flavours of the liquor, and of course is a gorgeous summer green.
Pimm’s goes with bubbles. The Pimm’s Cup is great with lemon-lime soda (British lemonade), ginger ale or (my favourite, because it’s got a bit more personality), ginger beer. If you’re looking for a brunch choice, try Pimm’s and champagne for a Pimm’s Royale.
Because of its low alcohol content (25 per cent), Pimm’s is a perfect afternoon or pre-dinner sipper. Add fruit and cucumber and you can savour it for hours without losing your stiff upper lip. V
Measure Pimm’s into a glass or pitcher. Add your fruits, and some mint if you want. Layer a generous amount of ice over the alcohol and fruits, then top up your glass with the soda of your choice. Mix, then add a slice or wedge of cucumber and serve.
Add one part of Pimm’s to a champagne glass, drop in fruit slices, then top the glass with champagne. Finish with a sprig of mint.
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