As we (finally) bid farewell to Summer for the next 8 months we must temporarily say goodbye to some of her most enjoyable traditions as well. My personal favorite is the British summer tradition of drinking Pimms No. 1 by the pitcher until the sun goes down.
Many New Orleanians consider Pimms to be a local drink that holds its own against rivals Sazerac, Café Brûlot, Mint Julep and Brandy Milk Punch as an official New Orleans cocktail. So this might surprise you, but Pimms is not of New Orleans origin. Pimms, the liquor, was first produced in 1823 by James Pimm, a farmer's son from the UK, who ran an oyster bar in the City of London, near the Bank of England. The stylish gents at the time drank gin with oysters but James found that if he macerated fruits with the gin he made a gin drink that was a much tastier accompaniment to oysters (I suppose he hadnt given Champagne a shot). Thus the introduction of Pimms No. 1, the crucial ingredient in a Pimms Cup, to a thirsty audience. The beverage was a smashing success taking only 30 years to stop selling the concoction out of the back door of the oyster house and actually open a commercial distillery. The beverage was originally labeled as "Pimm's No. 1 Cup" but now trades soley as "Pimm's No. 1" and the cocktail you make out of it is referred to as a "Pimm's Cup." James took the money and ran in 1865.
After WWII other Pimms were attempted to capitalize on the success of Pimms No. 1: Pimms No. 2 Cup was whisky based, Pimms No. 3 Cup was brandy based, Pimms No. 4 Cup was rum based and No. 5 Cup was based on rye. There is also a Pimms No. 6 Cup based on Vodka. Except for the occasional spotting of Pimms No. 6, the rest have long ago been phased out.
Pimms No. 3 Cup, though phased out, was brought back as a version infused with spices and orange and is sold under the label Pimms Winter Cup. The official recipe for Pimms Winter is 1 part Pimms Winter, 3 parts warm apple juice and a slice of apple and orange for garnish.
Two main differences exist today between the UK and US versions of Pimms No. 1 Cups. The first is the amount of fruit salad thrown in the mix. In the UK whatever fruit is available is generally put in the drink so if you order a Pimms Cup you will have a cocktail that includes oranges, strawberries, blackberries, cherries, kiwi literally anything and everything that is on sale in the produce section of your local store with the exception of tropical fruits or grapes. In the US if you have a proper Pimms it will likely come with mint, cucumber and maybe lemon or lime. The other big difference is that in the UK every single bartender knows how to make a proper Pimms. In the U.S. once you leave New Orleans youd be hard pressed to find a a bartender who can even locate Pimms on the shelf (I have had this experience, it is not an auspicious start to enjoying a cocktail).
So, we say goodbye to Pimms for now but when Summer returns from her hiatus south of the border well look forward to a trip to the Napoleon House to toast her with her favorite drink.
The official recipe for a Pimms Cup is:
1 part Pimms No. 1
3 parts chilled lemonade (lemonade in the UK is a sparkling beverage similar to 7up, but with just lemon flavor)
mint, cucumber, orange and strawberry
Napoleon House Recipe
Fill a tall 12 oz glass with ice
1 1/4 oz. Pimm's #1
3 oz lemonade.
Top off with 7up.
Garnish with cucumber.
My favorite Recipe
Tall glass packed with ice
1 part Pimms No. 1
1 part tonic water
1 part club soda
squeeze of lemon, several slices of cucumber, several mint leaves