Ah summer! It always brings my favorite things, like sitting on the porch, wearing plaid at polo matches, sunsets on the lawn, pink shorts, boat shoes, Wimbledon, and, of course, the Pimm’s Cup.
An exquisite vehicle for fresh summer fruit, herbs, and produce, the Pimm’s Cup reigns as one of the best cocktails to ring in the golden hour. Categorized as a “long” or “tall” drink, this classic cocktail is served in a collins glass (or bigger) and has a higher ratio of mixer to booze. Topped with fresh lemonade and soda water, it’s not terribly alcoholic, which makes it perfect for day drinking in the summer heat. In fact, the Pimm’s Cup is relatively hydrating and, I might add, superbly refreshing.
Pimm’s No. 1 – the drink’s main ingredient – was invented in 1823 by James Pimm, who served it at his oyster bar in London’s financial district. A longtime favorite of tipplers in the U.K., Pimm’s is a staple in bars and liquor stores across the pond, but it’s not hard to find on this side of the Atlantic either. And at just 25 percent alcohol by volume, this is one handy choice to remember when the sun is high and the glasses start clinking.
Today, a Pimm’s Cup in England generally includes 2 ounces of Pimm’s – a type of gin infused with herbal botanicals, caramelized oranges, and spices – and “lemonade,” or lemon-lime soda (a.k.a. Sprite), but that just won’t do for your fine palate. Instead, I prefer topping my Pimm’s with fresh ginger-lemonade and sparkling water.
As the official drink of Wimbledon, the Pimm’s Cup includes 2 ounces of Pimm’s topped with ginger beer and garnished with lemon and orange wheels. This is a version I can get down with, however, the beauty of the Pimm’s Cup is that the recipe is open to interpretation so long as there’s at least an ounce of Pimm’s in it.
I like to fortify my Pimm’s Cup with an additional shot of dry gin, which adds a nuanced layer of light botanicals. I chose Greenhook Ginsmiths’ variety as the base cocktail in the recipe here because it has delicious notes of Tuscan juniper, chamomile, and elderflower. (This lovely liquor is also great for sipping, which is not always the case with gin.)
But the fun is really in the garnishing – decorate with edible blossoms, cucumbers, fresh fruit, or whatever lavish bounty you can find at the farmers’ market. Then again, a few simple slices of cucumber and fresh citrus will also get the job done. There’s really no need to overthink it – if you keep a moderately well stocked fridge, chances are you have at least three possible ingredients for garnishing your Pimm’s Cup at any time. Just use your imagination. Fresh berries, apple slices, snap peas, basil, lemon, lime – heck, I’ve even added parsley to a Pimm’s Cup. It was lightly vegetal, herby, and divine.
If you’re looking for a low-alcohol cocktail, skip the dry gin in the recipe below and double up on the Pimm’s, using two ounces per cocktail instead of one. Then kick back and relax – there are least 20 sunsets for you practice your Pimm’s game before Wimbledon begins.
The Pimm’s Cup No. 2
makes one cocktail
1 ounce Pimm’s No. 1
1 ounce dry gin (I Greenhook Ginsmiths’ variety)
2 ounces ginger lemonade (see recipe below)
1 cucumber, sliced in wheels (for garnish)
1 sprig of mint, fennel, or thyme (for garnish)
For the ginger-lemonade
5-inch section of peeled Ginger
juice of 5–6 lemons
To make the ginger-lemonade:
Make a ginger syrup by juicing or blending a 5 -inch section of fresh peeled ginger that has been diced. (If you blend the ginger, add a few tablespoons of water first to get the blender started.) Fine strain the juice into a small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar to the pan. Over medium heat, stir intermittently while you bring the batch to a simmer, about 5 minutes. Allow the syrup to cool before using, or transfer it into a mason jar and refrigerate. (The syrup can be made ahead.)
In a pitcher or clean bottle, add 1 cup of fresh lemon juice to 4 cups of water. Add 1 cup of ginger syrup. Stir or shake the batch and adjust taste for desired sweetness. (Remember, though, you’ll add an ounce of Pimm’s to your cocktail, which will add another layer of herbal sweetness.)
To prepare the cocktail:
In a collins glass ¾ full of ice, add Pimm’s, gin, and fresh ginger-lemonade then top with sparkling water. Garnish with 3 cucumber slices and an herb sprig – or any seasonal fruit or blossoms. (Borage, snapdragons, nasturtium, violets, viola, pansies, and calendula blossoms all work well. Just be sure none have been treated with pesticides. Alternative citrus garnishes include lemon, lime, or orange.) Sip and enjoy.
Photos by Priscilla Weidlein and Willa Van Nostrand. Thank you to you to Lee Ann Freitas of Indie Growers, where these photos were taken, for her green thumb and inspiring ingredients. We are immensely grateful.