Friday, June 29, 2012

Monthly Moonshine: It's Pimm's O'Clock!

The first time I had Pimm's I was, appropriately, in London. I was there with my family and we'd just had a whirlwind of a day that involved Hyde Park, the Tower of London, and Buckingham Palace. We were tired, we were hungry, we were hot, and we were desperately in need of a drink. After some squabbling we ended up at a little pub where we ordered fish and chips. 

Normally I'm the type to order beer, especially at a pub in London, but neither my mom nor my sister drank beer at the time so they asked the waiter what else he might recommend. He suggested Pimm's No.1 Cup. He was then met with looks of mild confusion.

Until this point I had gone through life tragically unaware that Pimm's existed. He went on to explain that it was a mild summer drink, typically British and kind of like punch, made with a gin-based liqueur, lemonade and various fruits. We figured "When in London..." and gave it a try. And we were truly not disappointed.

Pimm's was created in London in the 1840s by James Pimm. He owned an oyster bar in the city and developed the drink as a more palatable form of gin, which could be sipped rather than knocked back like a shot. The gin is sweetened and flavoured with liqueurs and fruit extracts, giving it its dark amber colour. The recipe is closely guarded and allegedly only known to six people. At least that's what they claim on the back of the bottle. 

It is truly the perfect summer drink, especially if you don't like beer and you're not partial to the overly sweet Mike's Hard style of coolers. Pimm's Original, the recipe featured on the homepage of their website, is made up of three parts lemonade, one part Pimm's No.1 Cup, strawberries, cucumber, orange, and mint. Mix it all together, pour it over ice, and there you have it. It's commonly served in a jug, making it perfect for backyard barbecues and summer parties.

There is a subtle bitterness underlying its sweetness and the mint acts as a natural coolant that cuts through the medley of flavours to leave you with a fresh, almost earthy taste. The more you let it sit, the more the flavours mingle together lending a complexity that no run-of-the-mill punch could accomplish. 

Traditionally, Pimm's is made with English-style lemonade, which is clear and carbonated, but it's not uncommon for people to substitute ginger ale. The herb borage was often used instead of mint in the drink's earliest incarnation, as it has similar cooling properties and a cucumber-like flavour. However, due to the fact that mint is a more common herb it has come to replace it as standard.  

For me, Pimm's is summer in a glass. It tastes like slipping into the cool water of a pool on the hottest day of the year. It evokes lazy summer afternoons basking outside as the heat of the sun hangs around you, your glass dripping a ring of condensation on the table, with the lingering scent of summer flowers and freshly cut grass heavy in the air. And it's promising to be a long beautiful summer, so grab a bottle and sink in.

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