In today’s Washington Post, the inimitable Jason Wilson writes about pre-made cocktails: those horrible, day-glo things in tacky bottles that, I have to admit, I like snickering at while I smirkingly caress my soon-to-be-purchased bottle of Laird’s Bonded.  Funny enough, he fails to mention a summer classic that may be (I say “may be” because I am obviously too lazy to do the research to actually confirm this; thank god for the lack of peer-review in blogging) the oldest, still-produced pre-made cocktail: Pimm’s Cup #1.  It is essentially an infused, diluted gin, with an odd red-umbre color and a pronounced herbal nose, dominated by, of all things, fenugreek, which gives Pimm’s its distinctively British aroma of curry.  Many sources (including the proverbial horse’s mouth) claim that Pimm’s is a pre-mixed Gin Sling, which makes less than no sense, since slings, one of the simplest mixed drinks, are water, sugar and liquor, with nothing like bitters or liqueur to justify the strongly herbal flavor of Pimm’s or, in fact, the need for a pre-made.  Actually, if anyone knows why the idea that Pimm’s is a pre-made sling is so prevalent, I’d love to get in on that secret.  Still, I admire any liquor/liqueur crazy enough to use fenugreek (which is characterized by one of my favorite flavor compounds, sotolon) as a main flavorant, and somehow Pimm’s totally works.

Pimm’s is one of my favorite bottles, because it is found on nearly every bar, and nearly every bartender has never touched it.  It’s pretty good over ice, although a little thin, and is brilliant in the eponymous Pimm’s Cup, which is basically Pimm’s, lemonade (British-style, so carbonated), and various summer fruits over ice.  Hard to beat on a warm day, which is why they drink about seven million of them at Wimbledon.  It’s not used much in other cocktails, although I’d like to try it as a substitute for Dubonnet in  an Emerson, which I imagine would yield something kind of like a Negroni.  One of the few other cocktails I’ve encountered involving Pimm’s is the 21 Hayes, from Art of the Bar.

21 Hayes

  • 2 oz Plymouth gin
  • 1/2 oz Pimm’s Cup #1
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1 tsp simple syrup
  • 3 slices cucumber
    Muddle 2 of the cucumber slices with the Pimm’s in the bottle of a mixing glass.  Add the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup, shake well, and strain into a cocktail glass.  Garnish with the final slice of cucumber.

This is actually double the original recipe; while I am a fan of reasonable, 3 oz cocktails, the authors of Art of the Bar seem to have a thing for insanely tiny cocktails.  The original would make a drink that is slightly smaller than 2 oz after shaking, which is just silly.  I sincerely hope that the drinks at their bar are slightly larger.

This is a delicious cocktail, but, given the similarity in flavor between fenugreek and celery (weird but true!), I can’t help but think muddling some celery into this instead of or along with the cucumber would be a winning move.  On the other hand, once the temperature rises above 70 F, cucumbers make any drink better.  It’s a fact, which can be proven with science.