Ah, July, July, you never seemed so… gross. Right when we New Yorkers are primed for endless al fresco dining, the weather lately has us ducking for cover indoors. The thing is, unless you plan on hiding in your aggressively air-conditioned office/apartment until September, you’re going to need to step out into the blazing sun and deal with all this heat. My recommendation is when you do that, it should be happy hour. Or Saturday.
Here’s why: with temperatures hitting the 90s in NYC this week and not backing off, it’s the perfect opportunity to reconsider your favorite summer drink. Mojito, Mai Tai, Caipirinha, Margarita: all classics, but to drink them all day and all night long will certainly get you into some kind of trouble. When it’s too humid to eat much, and too hot to drink heavily, you want a cocktail that’s going to refresh and revive, not send you into spins. If that fits the bill, let me introduce you to a Pimm’s. The technical name of the (very) British drink is a Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, and it is the perfect, polite weapon to combat this intense heat; a gentle (bumping up against genteel) “No, thank you” to the sun’s incessant battering.
At its heart, a Pimm’s No. 1 Cup is kind of a punch: it combines the gin-based liqueur Pimm’s No. 1 – with its super-secret herbal/fruity concoction of flavors – and the some of the best of summer’s flavors, mainly lemon, and cucumber, and most often strawberries, mint, possibly orange… you get the picture. Low on alcohol at 25% ABV, it’s nice and easy, and can be dressed up or down, depending on who’s doing the asking or the serving.
Lucky for us, the Pimm’s Cup has steadily gained popularity in the States in the past couple of years (you can read more about that here on your smartphone while you grab a pitcher at Cafeteria with a few friends). When I set out to find this “Pimm’s No. 1,” I was worried I had my heart set on something that would lead me on a wild goose chase. I was surprised when, upon asking the owner whether or not he carried Pimm’s at the first Wine & Spirits shop I entered, I was answered with a genuine smile and an “Of course!” and I was led right to it.
I mixed a few different combinations and proportions to see which I liked best. The traditional drink called for 1 part Pimm’s to 2 or 3 parts lemonade, garnished with cucumber. I knew I wanted to keep the lemon-freshness of the original recipe, but I also like a little fizz, so I decided on a combination of fresh lemon juice and lemon soda. I didn’t want to overwhelm the herbal flavors of the Pimm’s; nor did I want to make the drink too sweet. I played with fresh cucumber juice, and different fruits. Ultimately, though, I relied on the taste buds of someone who had spent a good amount of time in London bars with this particular drink. “Too much cucumber,” he stated when I got creative with it; “Where’s the mint?!” when I got too simple. It went on like this until I slid him my final attempt across the counter. “Perfection,” a sigh and a nostalgic smile when I got it just right.
Pimm’s just seems to make everyone happy, no matter what side of the Atlantic they’re on. So order your new “go-to” summer drink and be merry, stay refreshed and stay cool.
Pimm’s No. 1 Cup:
I tried 3 different sodas: Grown Up Soda’s Dry Meyer Lemon, Baladin Cedrata, and Lurisia’s Gazzosa. I decided to use the Lurisia Gazzosa, an all-natural Italian lemon soda, for its light touch of lemon flavor – GuS’s was too dry, and Baladin’s Cedrata overwhelmed everything else in the drink. Mint made it taste like summer and balanced the herbal notes in the liqueur. Add strawberries for extra sweetness if you like.
2 oz. Pimm’s No. 1 liqueur
1 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
Lemon slices, 1/4-in. thick
Cucumber slices, 1/4-in. thick
4 small mint leaves, plus more for garnish
Small strawberry, sliced (optional)
Combine the mint leaves, 1 cucumber slice and 1 lemon slice in the bottom of a tall glass, and muddle until mint is just bruised, not broken up. Fill the glass halfway with ice; pour in the Pimm’s, and lemon juice, and top off with soda. Add some sliced strawberry if you feel like it; stir. Garnish with remaining lemon and cucumber slices.