Summer is in full swing, and we all know what that means. It’s hot and only going to get hotter. This makes it the perfect time to begin creating your list of cool and refreshing libations for the warm months ahead. I want to start with the Pimm’s Cup. It’s a New Orleans staple and like bread pudding, this tasty drink travelled all the way from London to be received by New Orleans with open arms. The Pimm’s Cup dates back to the 1840’s when the proprietor of an oyster bar in London, James Pimm, invented the drink using gin and a secret mixture of herbs. He promoted it as being a medicinal tonic that improved one’s digestion. It was served in a tankard referred to as a No. 1 cup, thus the name. According to Jessica Bride in her article for “Food Politic” titled ‘The Real History of Summer’s Favorite Drink- Pimm’s Cup’, Pimm’s No. 1 once had six different, numbered variations using Scotch Whiskey, Brandy, rum, rye whisky or vodka as its base. Most of these did not stand the test of time, but the one that began it all is still very popular in London and in New Orleans. The rest of the world, not so much.
No one knows exactly how the Pimm’s Cup came to our fair city, but it’s widely accepted that 100 years after it was created, in the 1940’s, the Napoleon House in the French Quarter began serving it and made it one of New Orleans’ signature drinks. Just as it is with cooking, there are many different ways to approach making this concoction. The Napoleon House uses lemonade and a splash of 7up to give it extra kick. I stopped by the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone last night to sample their version which incorporates simple syrup with strawberries, cucumber and lemon juice. It was perfect after walking there from the Orpheum Theater on a hot and humid night. Some add lime and mint to all the other fruit. The ratio is usually 1 part Pimm’s No. 1 to 3 parts simple syrup, soda water, lemonade or whatever you choose to mix with it. Whether you start with a glass or a pitcher, first add the fruit and ice. The fruit can be sliced or muddled. No matter what combination of ingredients you use, this drink is always a thirst quencher.
One of my favorite mixologists, Brandon Dawson of Express Catering, shared his recipe. It’s delightful, and I absolutely love it. I hope you will too!
BRANDON DAWSON’S PIMM’S CUP RECIPE
1. 2 ounces of Pimm’s No 1 (a gin-based liqueur)
2. 3 ounces of Sprite, 7up or ginger ale
3. 2 cucumber slices
4. 2 strawberry slices
5. 2 orange slices
6. 2 lemon slices
Combine the produce in a highball glass. Fill the glass with ice. Add 2 ounces of Pimm’s No. 1. Top with 3 ounces of sprite, 7up, or ginger ale. Garnish with a lemon and orange wheel.
To kick it up a notch, muddle the produce, add an ounce of gin and top it off with champagne instead of the sprite, 7up or ginger ale.