1½ oz Pimm's
½ oz gin
½ oz lemon juice
½ oz simple syrup
3 cucumber discs - or ¼ oz cucumber juice, see below
1½ oz chilled soda water - or so
In a shaker or mixing glass, muddle the cucumber slices with the simple syrup.
Add the Pimm's, lemon juice, gin and fill with ice. Stir (yes, stir this one) and fine strain into a wine or highball glass over fresh ice.
Top with the soda water and briefly stir to integrate.
Garnish with a cucumber slice, mint sprig and whatever else you feel like - strawberries, orange slices, lemon wheels, assorted berries, what have you.
The Pimm's Cup is a glass full of summer and the ideal day-drinking cocktail. Pimm's, which a brand not a type of alcohol, tastes kind of like a fruity vermouth spiked with gin. It's ABV is about half that of a typical base spirit. So when you guzzle a Pimm's Cup down - very easy to do - it only hits you like half of one, but is just as satisfying. Another round please!
A traditional Pimm's Cup is simply Pimm's topped off with lemonade or citrus soda (Sprite/7Up), garnished with a cucumber slice and maybe some other fresh fruits and herbs - mint, strawberries, citrus slices etc. I prefer using fresh lemon juice and simple syrup and muddling in the cucumber (and adding some gin), but there's plenty of room for adjustment. I've listed a few alternative versions below. Feel free to borrow elements from all of them and tweak your Pimm's Cup to your liking.
What the heck is Pimm's?
Fair question. Pimm's is not really like anything else out there. It's a type of what the British call a "fruit cup”, though technically it's classified as a liqueur. It has a base of gin and is flavored with an array of fruits extracts and botanicals. It has primary flavors are of ripe berry-like fruit, citrus, some spice and the faintest whisper of bitterness on the finish - courtesy of quinine - which keeps the sweetness at bay. It is 25% ABV.
Adding a bit of gin into a Pimm's Cup is sort of a cheat, but it helps bump up the flavor. Hendrick's and Martin Miller's Westbourne Strength Gin are particularly nice options because of their cucumber note. Tanqueray and Beefeater are nice too.
The single best way to improve a Pimm's Cup is to muddle cucumber into it, even more than using fresh juice. If you're not up for muddling, and have a juice extractor, you can make cucumber juice and use about ¼ oz per drink. I highly recommend this if you're making a large batch. You can also infuse the cucmber into the Pimm's. Slice up 1 cucumber combine it with 2 cups of Pimm's. Let it sit for 3 days in the refrigerator, then remove the cucumber. Keep refrigerated.
Pimm's Cup Variations
Most alternative preparations of a Pimm's Cup still fall under the Pimm's Cup umbrella, there aren’t too many classic variations that go by a different name. These are the only two I know of and they topped off with different mixers. Everything else is the same.
Streamlined Pimm's Cup Recipe
If you choose to forego the fresh juice route and make this a , I recommend using a Tom Collins Mixer, which are kind of like lemonade soda. There are several out there, but they aren't super well circulated, I like Polar's Collins Mix, Canada Dry makes one too.
Store-bought lemonade is ok too, though not as good, and I really don't recommend using Sprite, 7up, or another citrus soda. I have nothing against it in principle, it's just not very good, despite being the conventional way to make a Pimm's Cup in England, its native land.
Feel free to muddle cucumber and add gin to this version as well.
3 oz Tom Collins Mixer
Combine in a wine or highball/collins glass over ice and stir. Garnish with a cucumber slice.
If you make a Pimm's Cup, let me see! Tag a photo with #socialhourcocktails on Instagram.
Pimm's Royal Cup
Increase the simple syrup to ¾ oz, and substitute Champagne or sparkling wine for the soda water. You can omit the gin as well, to lower the proof and it a "day-drinking" cocktail. Though the drink is still delicious with it in there.
This is a Pimm's Cup with ginger ale. Increase the lemon juice to ¾ oz and substitute ginger ale in place of the soda water. Or use ginger beer for spicy kick. Sweetness will vary from brand to brand so I recommend starting with 1 ounce and adding more to taste. Some people use ginger ale in they're classic Pimm's Cup, and that's just fine.
With Ginger Syrup - If you some on hand, you could also make a Pimm's Rangoon by using ½ oz ginger syrup in place of simple syrup and topping the drink with soda water. This is probably my favorite version of all. But I say, why discriminate? The sharp zip of ginger is just what a Pimm's Cup needs to cap it off, particularly a spicy ginger beer. Just be careful not to add too much or it’ll dominate the drink. An ounce or so is plenty, depending on how spicy it is. Sweetness will vary from brand to brand, so you may need to adjust the simple syrup or lemon juice for balance.
Pimm’s Cup by the Pitcher
Hosting a garden party anytime soon? This is an easy to assemble large format version of the above recipe. You'll notice gin ratio is a lower and the lemon and simple are higher, I generally think it's a good idea to serve lower ABV drink when serving a crowd - when possible.
2 cups Pimm's
½ cup gin - or more at your discretion
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup simple syrup
3 oz cucumber juice (use a juice extractor) or 1 whole cucumber cut into discs and muddle
2 cups chilled soda water
cucumber slices and other assorted fruits, herbs, and flowers for garnish
Juice one whole cucumber in a juice extractor, or muddle the cucumber discs in a few ounces of simple syrup and let them sit for a few minutes before straining out the solids. Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and add 2 cups of ice, fill with soda water and briefly stir. Add your garnish the of choice. Pour into wine glasses over fresh ice and additional garnishes if you like.
The Story of Pimm's
Pimm's finds it’s origins in 1840s London. James Pimm, owner of a slew of oyster bars, created the first iteration and billed it as a tonic to aid digestion thanks to the array of herbs and extracts it contained. At the time, "tonics" were broadly marketed as cure-alls for just about anything, and since they often contained booze, it’s not hard to see why the public was into it.
By 1859, bottled Pimm's had hit the retail market. By 1965 Mr. Pimm sold the business to Frederick Sawyer, who then sold it to Horatio Davies - businessman, restauranteur and future Lord Mayor of London - in 1880. It was Davies who made Pimm’s a household name. He expanded production, got it into other establishments, and spread it to the far reaches of the British empire, which at time spanned the globe. This brought Pimm’s international recognition and cemented it as an iconic brand. It also certainly couldn’t have hurt that it was a unique product. Unlike gin or whiskey, you couldn't substitute anything in for Pimm’s. It was its own thing.
The Pimms we know today is Pimms No. 1, as in, the original. Over the course of 20th century, the company experimented with other expressions using different base spirits. There was #2 with scotch, #3 with brandy, #4 with rum, #5 with rye, and #6 with vodka. These did not catch on as hoped and were largely phased out in the 1970s and 80s, only #1 and #6 are still available. Recently the company has taken a different approach by releasing versions of Pimm's with new flavor profiles. There’s Pimm's Winter Cup - a variant of #3 featuring cinnamon, caramel and orange, Pimm’s with blackberry and elderflower - which was based on the #6, and in 2015 they introduced Pimm’s strawberry with a hint of mint, based on the classic #1.
Only the original is available in U.S., so I’ve never tried any of these new releases, sadly. If you’re ever in the U.K. keep your eyes peeled. Or you can seek them out online. You can find them on the reliably awesome UK based website the Whiskey Exchange. They’ve even got some old Pimm’s Bottles from the 60s available, very cool.
In addition to its international visibility, which has certainly increased amidst the cocktail boom, a Pimm’s Cup is also the traditional quaff of choice at several British sporting events, including Wimbledon, where spectators reportedly go through around 40,000 each year.
As for the history of the Pimm’s Cup itself, no one seems to be too concerned with it. Most Pimm’s histories chronicle on what I just covered above. So I'll speculate. I imagine the Pimm's Cup was likely born out of consumers taking the path of least resistance. Pimm’s and lemonade is as much of a no brainer as Rum and Coke. Only after three Pimm’s Cups, instead of your head spinning, you feel like you’re king of the world. Or, perhaps, the Queen of England.