How are you planning to celebrate the Fourth of July? For us, it will be spending time with friends, grilling fresh fish on the barbecue, watching the fireworks, of course, and… Em and I have talked about going swimming in Lake Washington. (Call us crazy! I just hope I won’t die of hypothermia.)
And to mark the holiday, deuxdilettantes is proposing a little cocktail recipe that might soon become one of your summer favorites. Forget mojitos and caipirinhas. Get ready to fall for the Pimm’s Cup, an iconic garden-party drink that is to Wimbledon what the mint Julep is to the Kentucky Derby. A British cocktail on July 4th? Yes, there is really nothing better on a hot day than this long icy drink. Just think of it as a conciliatory gesture toward our one-time colonial overlords.
I already mentioned that every time my husband and I go to New Orleans we have to stop at the Napoleon House* to get their house drink, and somehow the Pimm’s Cup found its way into our cocktail routine — or, should I say, his cocktail routine.
Although I’m liable to produce batch after batch of macarons in pursuit of perfection, I have very little patience with cocktails, and I’m just happy to sit, sip and enjoy. My husband, on the other hand, showed some interest, and I sort of encouraged him… very strongly. When I moved in with him, I needed to reclaim the tiny kitchen that was full of glasses and liquor bottles — a misuse of precious cooking space! — so I suggested that we buy a bar. I sold him on the idea by insisting that it would be a great opportunity for him to perfect his mixology skills, but it was really all about space optimization. Not that I’m complaining in the end — How cool is it to have a bartender at home, right? — but I may have created a monster: Not a dinner with friends goes by without some new cocktail experiment, nor a date at a cocktail bar without him trying to recreate a drink at home. But back to the Pimm’s Cup.
The Pimm’s Cup is a great summer cooler and can easily replace the overdone mojito and gin tonic, or even a beer. It will add a slight touch of class to even the most casual barbecue. Another great point: The alcohol content of Pimm’s is relatively low compared to other spirits (25%), and I found myself drinking a couple without even noticing.
For a Pimm’s Cup, you will need Pimm’s No. 1, a light gin-based liqueur with herbs, spices and citrus. And if you wonder why this liqueur is numbered, it’s because there used to be five other sorts of Pimm’s, respectively based on Scotch, brandy, rum, rye and vodka. Today, aside Pimm’s No.1, only Pimm’s No. 6 with a vodka base is still available (as well as No. 3 but seasonally and in confidential quantity). All the other kinds were phased out.
The Pimm’s Cup is subject to multiple interpretations. Besides the base liqueur, it may contain any combination of cucumber, orange, lemon, strawberries, mint, rosemary and sometimes maraschino cherries(!). My favorite garnish is cucumber, mint, rosemary and some citrus. Add some fizz (ginger ale, lemon soda or sparkling lemonade), adjust your hat (it’s a garden party after all), and sip while soaking up the sun. The traditional recipe contains 1 measure of Pimm’s for 3 measures of fizz.
the deuxdilettantes Pimm’s Cup (courtesy of Mr. E, aka the hubby)
Yields about 10 drinks.
- 1 bottle of Pimm’s No. 1
- 1/2 unpeeled cucumber cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 3-4 sprigs of mint
- 3-4 sprigs of rosemary
- 1/2 orange quartered
- Lemon soda (Sprite or 7-Up), lemonade or ginger ale
- Ice cubes
In a large pitcher, place the herbs, cucumber slices and orange quarters and muddle. Pour over a bottle of Pimm’s and allow to rest for at least a couple of hours in the fridge.
To serve, fill a highball glass with ice and pour in the Pimm’s mixture to fill about 1/4 to 1/2 of the glass. Top with ginger ale, lemon soda, lemonade or even Champagne or sparkling wine for a Pimm’s Royal. Garnish with mint or rosemary, cucumber and an orange slice.
*Speaking of the Napoleon House, when my husband was a kid in Louisiana, he met Sal Impastato, a famous Louisiana restaurateur and current owner of the Napoleon House, which is said to be the biggest buyer of Pimm’s in the U.S. If my husband had known at that time, maybe he would have asked Sal about his secret recipe for a perfect Pimm’s Cup.