Cocktail Bar/Photo by Peter Chou
Pimm’s No. 1 is a liqueur-meets-tonic that is reputed to be the most popular drink in England, after tea. London restaurateur James Pimm first infused gin with quinine and various secret herbs in the 1840s and began to serve the resulting spirit as a digestif.
Pimm’s tastes rather medicinal straight up—it’s more bitter than sweet, with orange notes—so Londoners soon began drinking it “cup style” to sweeten its delivery. They muddled the Pimm’s with mint and cucumbers and mixed it with fizzy lemonade.
All Britons now treasure the cocktail, says bartender Erik Lorincz, who serves it classic-style at the American Bar at The Savoy in London.
“The drink bears not only British heritage, as it was originally created in England, but also celebrates the summer [season],” he says. It’s common to sip it at garden parties and sporting events nationwide (it’s a fan favourite at Wimbledon).
Everywhere else, the Pimm’s Cup is gaining in popularity, too. This deliciously bitter and boozy (yet fruity and refreshing) cooler is synonymous with sunny days and is best sipped while sitting on a patio.
Here are three Pimm’s cocktails to try in North America.
Bitter Afternoon Tea
At this Toronto hot spot, bartender David Greig offers a tea-centric interpretation of a Pimm’s Cup that also incorporates bitter Italian amaro. His take includes Earl Grey-infused Pimm’s, ginger cordial and Cynar (an Italian liqueur), and is garnished with the traditional cucumber and mint. The resulting Bitter Afternoon Tea hits all the right notes.
Filling In The Void
The herbaceous taste of Pimm’s is fortified with a spicy hit of Bulleit rye in Cucina Enoteca’s version of the classic cup. Bartender Tucky Dias has added more structure to the traditionally light drink. It’s still fizzy, thanks to a topper of ginger beer, and both savoury and sweet, courtesy of the muddled cucumber and house-made mango lime bitters.
Verre de Soleil
Created by L’Abattoir‘s bartender Katie Ingram, this cocktail’s name translates as “glass of sunshine.” With a base of Pimm’s No. 1 that’s mixed with white grape juice, tart lime juice, raspberry purée, honey and Bittered Sling Aromatic Bitters, then topped with 33 Acres of Sunshine (a French ale from a local brewer), this complex drink is a draught of liquid sunshine.