What do you drink on a hot day? Wine, beer or soft drinks are all fine, but there is one little British tradition that everyone loves, either secretly or very openly. It is also something that all my friends from outside the UK love to drink when they are here. I’m talking about Pimm’s, which is right up there as one of the best things about hot days in the sunshine.
Above, exhibit A, is a jug of the stuff we had last night, infused with lemon, orange, mint, cucumber, mint and mixed with lemonade. Fruity and summery, perfect over ice on a warm evening.
First, the history lesson. What is Pimm’s? Well, it started life as a tonic, based on gin and infused with various herbs and spices. This was served in an oyster bar run by Mr Pimm, with the spices intended to soften the hard edge of the gin. Before long, the house concoction was famous in its own right. So successful was this that Mr Pimm expended to six different drinks, based on gin, vodka, scotch, brandy, rye whiskey and rum. Today, only the gin and rum versions are produced, with the famous gin-based Pimm’s No. 1 Cup being the “Pimm’s” that we all know and love to cool us down on a hot day. For for information, see the website for Pimm’s here.
Everyone seems to have their own recipe, and you basically need to accept that every batch will be different – either subtly different, or wildly so. More mint or less lemon will affect the taste in quite an obvious way. However, you can get some pleasantly unexpected tastes. Last summer, I was staying in Luxembourg and we used mint from the garden. Unknown to us, it was some variety of rose-scented mint, which imparted a pleasant floral quality to the Pimm’s. Accept these things as happy accidents.
So, how do you make it? In my version, just take thin slices of cucumber, lemon and orange, add chopped ripe strawberries and some bruised mint leaves. Thin slices help the flavours come out into the drink, and the bruised leaves will impart a stronger mint flavour. Pour the neat Pimm’s over the fruit, leave to sit for at least 30 minutes if you can, then top up with sparkling lemonade and serve over lots of ice. I work with the classic measures of 1 part Pimm’s to 3 parts lemonade works well, but you can adjust to taste.
So pick up a bottle, and enjoy the sunshine!