Thursday, October 9, 2008

Farewell to Summer and to Pimm's Cups

Posted By on Thu, Oct 9, 2008 at 3:59 PM

click to enlarge UK Pimm

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 Pimm’s No. 1 by the pitcher until the sun goes down.

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Many New Orleanians consider Pimm’s 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 Pimm’s is not of New Orleans origin.  Pimm’s, 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 hadn’t given Champagne a shot). Thus the introduction of Pimm’s No. 1, the crucial ingredient in a Pimm’s 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.

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After WWII other Pimm’s were attempted to capitalize on the success of Pimm’s No. 1:  Pimm’s No. 2 Cup was whisky based, Pimm’s No. 3 Cup was brandy based, Pimm’s No. 4 Cup was rum based and No. 5 Cup was based on rye.  There is also a Pimm’s No. 6 Cup based on Vodka.  Except for the occasional spotting of Pimm’s No. 6, the rest have long ago been phased out.

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Pimm’s No. 3 Cup, though phased out, was brought back as a version infused with spices and orange and is sold under the label “Pimm’s Winter Cup.”  The official recipe for Pimm’s Winter is 1 part Pimm’s Winter, 3 parts warm apple juice and a slice of apple and orange for garnish.

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Two main differences exist today between the UK and US versions of Pimm’s 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 Pimm’s 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 Pimm’s 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 Pimm’s.  In the U.S.  once you leave New Orleans you’d be hard pressed to find a a bartender who can even locate Pimm’s on the shelf (I have had this experience, it is not an auspicious start to enjoying a cocktail).

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So, we say goodbye to Pimm’s for now – but when Summer returns from her hiatus south of the border we’ll look forward to a trip to the Napoleon House to toast her with her favorite drink.

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The official recipe for a Pimm’s Cup is:

1 part Pimm’s 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

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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.

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My favorite Recipe

Tall glass packed with ice

1 part Pimm’s No. 1

1 part tonic water

1 part club soda

squeeze of lemon,  several slices of cucumber, several mint leaves

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