The British have invented many things that keep us cool: a Scotsman named William Cullen designed the first artificial refrigeration system; our friends across the pond continue to send us the bone-chilling English breeze; and a delightful, red-tinted drink called Pimm's Cup has been a summer refresher since the 1800s.
In recent years, Pimm's Cup has been having a bit of a moment. Not just the signature drink of Wimbledon, Pimm's Cup has become an international symbol of a certain kind of English decadence.
Pimm's No. 1 -- and yes, there have been five other varieties, half of which have been discontinued -- belongs to a unique class of liqueur known as the fruit cup. Although it has an odd and not entirely lovely flavor on its own, its true purpose is to be mixed with lemonade and garnished with cucumber and citrus.
As with any drink, there are countless minute variations of Pimm's Cup that the amateur Anglophile might stumble upon. Though the official Pimm's Cup recipe calls only for lemonade and fruit, gin provides a dash of bracing stiffness to the otherwise entirely blithe drink. And when these crazy Brits say "lemonade," they really mean the clear, carbonated lemon soda made by brands like Fentimans.
The identity of the man who had the idea for the Pimm's series, often described as cocktails in a bottle, is still disputed. James Pimm was said to have first served the drink in 1840, at his Pimm's Oyster Warehouse restaurant; some maintain that Pimm was merely a posh patsy who lent his name to the drink. But whatever the case, it was definitely Sir Horatio Davies, a future Lord Mayor of the city of London -- and a real toff if there ever was one -- who turned the Pimm's restaurant into a franchise and had the bright idea to bottle and sell his fruit cup cocktail.
Clinging desperately to the last threads of summer, I was seeking a Pimm's Cup something fierce. The recently opened Churchill's Public House in LoHi happens to count the drink among its specialties. Started by bona fide Londoner Keith Winyard and Peter Satchell, Churchill's is pretty far from the fields of Wimbledon, but its Pimm's Cup, with lemonade and 7-Up as mixers, holds up quite well.
Pimm's guards its recipe closely. In another delightful bit of liquor-marketing legend (see also: St. Germain), it is said that only six people in the world know the secret of what herbs and flavors go into the drink.
However, as you drink a Pimm's, some of those flavors will make themselves apparent. It really is unique, a tipple that complements the fruity tastes of summer. A truly cracking and splendorous drink, it's likely to make you break out in a case of overly twee Britishisms. Scrummy! Luvvly-jubbly!
Have a butcher's at this Pimm's Cup recipe, and adjust accordingly to the size of your next soiree. But be warned, Americans: Using 7-Up and/or our sort of lemonade usually results in a drink much sweeter than the British are accustomed to.
Keep reading for that recipe.
Pimm's No. 1 Cup Ingredients: 1 part Pimm's No 1 3 parts lemonade (Use Fentimans Victorian Lemon or a quality lemon-lime soda) 1 slice cucumber 1 slice orange or lemon 1 sliced strawberry 2 sprigs mint
In a Collins glass, stir with ice and serve. Begin adding a "U" to random wourds for no particulour reason.
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