PIMM’S No.1 Cup is Britain’s favorite summer beverage and resurrects itself each May with the opening of the seasonal social scene. One whiff of the fruity tonic will have you asking in your best plumby accent, “Anyone for PIMM’s?”
In 1823 London oyster bar owner James Pimm concocted a gin based tipple, flavored with liquors and herbs to ‘aid digestion’ and to no doubt transform those slimy bivalves into palatable delicacies. Served in a silver tankard or ‘cup’, earning the name Pimm’s Cup, it quickly became the bourgeois drink of choice. By the 1850s Mr Pimm bottled his invention and expanded commercially and is now the required element at garden parties and backyard barbecues today.
PIMM’S is still considered tonic for the posh set. It is the signature drink of Wimbledon where over 80,000 half pints are served over the two week period. Prestigious events such as Henley Royal Regatta, Royal Ascot and the Chelsea Flower Show just wouldn’t be the same without it. Even Prince William was spotted stocking up on the caramel colored elixir days before his wedding.
After WWII, PIMM’S dabbled in several spirit varieties: Scotch in No. 2, brandy for No.3, rum in No.4, rye in No.5 and vodka in No. 6. Of these only No. 3 is still manufactured and marketed as winter PIMM’S and served warm. Although the idea of PIMM’S without ice and fruit and sipped within sight of a Christmas tree has yet to catch on.
PIMM’S is 25% alcohol; therefore, not served straight. Mixed with three parts fizzy lemonade (Sprite, 7-Up or tonic) and juicy pieces of orange, strawberries, and cucumber (occasionally apples & lemon too), PIMM’S is poured into an ice filled glass then topped with a mandatory sprig of fresh mint. Keep in mind the unwritten rule of PIMM’S is it must only be consumed outdoors.
To sample a British summer in a cup while visiting London, we suggest one of our top ten pub gardens.
flickr image: Phillie Casablanca