July Fourth: Pimm's Cup

In Seattle, it is said that summer begins on July 5. And without fail, every year that I have lived here the Fourth of July, day of barbecues and picnics, sunburns and fireworks, has been wet and cold . . . and sometimes foggy. This year was no exception. But, just because it was cold and dreary outside, didn't mean we had to miss out on the festivities--just the heat and the sunshine and the barbecue. So regardless of what was happening on the other side of the window, homemade baked beans, grilled veggie burgers, homemade pickles and a big fresh mixed green salad still dominated our holiday menu. And even as we huddled under our blankets and watched movies, we were still drinking highballs.

We began the night with the quintessential highball, the Pimm's Cup. For me this drink usually signifies the beginning of spring, but as we didn't have much of a spring, it is heralding in the summer. It goes down easy and is refreshingly herbal. Pimm's is such an interesting spirit, and we are lucky to still have it around. I am sure that this drink is one of the reasons why.  Pimm's No. 1 actually is a product of a forgotten time--the time of the bottled cocktail. Both Pimm's and Rock and Rye began as medicinal remedies that were prebatched. Jerry Thomas includes recipes for shrubs in his Bartender's Guide from 1862. These concoctions were prepared, bottled and meant to be enjoyed later. Harry Craddock devotes an entire section of the Savoy Cocktail Book to prepared cocktails for bottling, though they number only four.

To me at least, Pimm's No. 1 has always stood out simply because it is still here. Originally invented in 1823, Pimm's is a mixture of gin, quinine and a secret blend of herbs. Over the years several other Pimm's products were produced, each based on a different base liquor. Unfortunately, many of them do not exist at all, and others are extremely rare. In some parts of the country the still-produced brandy-based Pimm's No. 3 is imported under the label Pimm's Winter Cup. As far as I know, Seattle isn't one of those places. But good old Pimm's No. 1 is still available in my liquor store, and this pleases me to no end.

Pimm's Cup (modified)

2 thin slices of cucumber
2 dashes Bitter Truth Celery Bitters
2 ounces Pimm's No. 1
Ginger Beer

 In a heavy-bottomed collins glass, muddle cucumber in celery bitters. Add ice and Pimm's and fill with ginger beer. Give it a quick stir, and add cucumber spear and seasonal berries (optional). Note: I usually add a bit more ginger beer after the stir to replenish the bubbles.

Now this is not the traditional recipe for a Pimm's Cup. For starters, we did not have any lemon-lime soda to really enjoy our British picnic classic. Second, usually there are no bitters or muddled cucumber, but I thought, what the hell? It sounded good and it was. I added blueberries because we had some and it added a nice contrasting flavor. If I had had any mint in the house I might've slapped some and dropped that in on top as well.