The History Of James Pimm’s Tonic Drink
The Pimm’s No. 1 Cup was Invented in either the 1820s or 1830s by James Pimm in London and was actually 1 of 6 different house drinks. James Pimm’s No. 1 Cup was a gin cocktail, thus making Pimm’s cup a gin cocktail. No.2 was a scotch cocktail, No.3 was a brandy cocktail, No.4 was a rum cocktail, No.5 was a rye whiskey cocktail, and No.6 was a vodka cocktail. James Pimm only invented 1,2, and 3, with No. 4,5, and 6 being invented almost 100 years later. James Pimm would start his cocktails with a base spirit, added some quinine, herbs, and sweeten it with lemonade and was sold it as a tonic/health drink. Each cup had a different base spirit and a different health benefit.
James Pimm eventually started selling pre-made concentrated bottles of each of his drinks that the average person could buy at a store and make at home by just adding lemonade. Similar to how you can buy pre-made margarita mix and just need to add tequila. So when you buy bottle of Pimms No.1 Cup, you’re actually buying Pimm’s No.1 Cup concentrate. In the 1970s the Pimm’s company was bought and No.2 – No.6 were eventually phased out leaving only his gin based No.1 concentrate. Sometimes No.3 is sold in limited releases as Pimm’s Winter cup and No.6 as Pimm’s Vodka Cup. Every now and then old bottles of 2-6 will go to auction and get anywhere from 150 to 400 dollars a bottle. I can’t imagine that they still taste any good.
What do you mix with Pimms?
There are 4 different mixers to add to Pimms. The original mixer is sparkling lemonade. Sparkling lemonade is not Sprite or 7Up, it’s more like the fancy French or Italian sparkling lemonades you would find at a Trader Joes or whole foods. If you don’t have access to sparkling lemonade you can make your own by combining lemon juice, simple syrup, and soda water. Another mixer is just normal lemonade. This is my favorite way since its a bit more acidic and less sweet, and it makes the drink taste kinda like a herbal Tom Collins. Another mixer, and maybe most common, is with ginger beer. This is a very popular way to mix it today and it does add a nice spice to the drink. The last mixer is lemon lime soda; like Sprite or 7Up. This last one is a pretty boring mixer since it just adds sweetness and no real extra flavor. But if you want to go traditional then go with sparkling lemonade.
What Do THey Taste Like
The final taste of a Pimm’s cup will vary based on what it is mixed with. Pimm’s itself has actually a wonderful taste similar to that of a gin based Drambuie meets sweet vermouth. I think it would be interesting to experiment with it as a sweet vermouth substitute, but back to the Pimm’s cup. Sparkling lemonade adds a nice bit of sweetness and lemon flavor without being acidic. Normal lemonade adds a nice bit of lemon and acidic flavor to the drink while being the least sweet of the four. Ginger Beer replaces the acidic lemon flavor with a spicy peppery earthy flavor. Lemon Lime soda simply adds a soda like sweetness. lemon lime soda is not bad but the other 3 just taste so much better.
Garnishing a Pimm’s Cup
The Pimm’s Cup is unique from other cocktails because the garnishes are just as important to the drink as the drink itself. A Pimm’s without garnishes is not a proper Pimm’s. I once read that Pimm’s use to use bergakmot petals but since those are expensive and hard to find a common substitute are cucumber slices. Not sure if that is true or not but the standard garnishes that go into a Pimm’s Cup are cucumber slices, strawberry slices, and mint, and I will agree that they do make the drink taste better.
Making a whole pitcher of Pimm’s Cup
I have provided a recipe for each single drink. If you wanted to make a pitcher of this with a whole bottle of Pimm’s, then mix a whole bottle of Pimm’s with 1.9L (about 8 cups) of mixer. Remember to add the garnishes to the pitcher as well.
The most important Ingredient
The most important ingredient in the Pimm’s Cup is the mixer you use. As described above the mixer used will completely change the drink. So my advice is to ditch the soda and use either ginger beer, a nice lemonade, or drive to Trader Joes and buy Italian sparkling lemonade. Life is too short to waste on drinking subpar mixer.