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Every summer I embark on a serious mission. The mission involves several stages: planning, sourcing, researching, and testing. I take this mission very seriously. It’s the Quest for the Drink of the Summer. One year, it was a lemongrass-infused Hendricks gin cocktail. Another year, it was a Meyer lemon margarita. Last year, I dubbed the tinto de verano, a red wine cocktail from Spain, the clear winner. And this year, in true homage to where we’re living, it’s a fresh and fruity Pimm’s Cup.
The Drink of the Summer is an important endeavor because it sets the tone and defines how we all enjoy the hot weather. Hot weather naturally requires us to sit outside on a porch, balcony or deck and fan ourselves while talking about important things, like reality TV shows and how our world is rapidly becoming the weirdest one of all.
I require serious porch-sitting time in the summer because of my Southern childhood, when I can remember distinctly running around the backyard and chasing fireflies with my friends while the parents sat on the porch, chatting and swatting away the buggy, humid night. It’s my turn now, as a grownup, to do the swatting. I might as well do it with a cool, refreshing drink.
Now that we live in London, our porch is actually a balcony that overlooks a small garden. It’s a nice place to sit and chat, especially during the long days of summer when the sun doesn’t set until almost 10pm. When I undertook this year’s quest, I realized pretty quickly that the obvious winner had been staring me in the face the whole time — the British Pimm’s cup, a cocktail made from Pimm’s No. 1. Pimm’s No. 1 is an infused gin that has an infused blend of herbs and caramelized orange, which gives it a jeweled amber hue. When mixed with some seltzer and fresh fruit, it’s an incredibly refreshing summer drink.
The Pimm’s cup has a long, storied history in the U.K. as a staple drink at Wimbledon and the Chelsea Flower Show. I see Pimm’s Cups popping up at summer festivals and fetes whenever the sun is shining and Londoners are happy. What better way to celebrate the end of a gray season than with a fresh and fruity drink?
The English version requires “lemonade,” which is actually closest to what we Americans would call Sprite or 7-Up. It’s fizzy and sweet, almost too cloying for my tastes. Instead, I add sparkling water (you could use seltzer or club soda as well) to preserve the flavors of the Pimm’s No. 1 without adding too much sweetness. Traditional Pimm’s Cups also have a blend of chopped strawberries, orange, cucumber and mint. By the time you get to the end of your Pimm’s, you’ll need a spoon to scoop up every last bit of boozy fruit.
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s do the last dog days of summer together, shall we? You get the Pimm’s and I’ll get the fruit…
- 1.5 cups Pimm's No. 1
- 4.5 cups sparkling water (or seltzer/club soda)
- 2 cups strawberries, rinsed, hulled and chopped into ½-inch pieces
- 1 navel orange, sliced into small triangles
- ¾ cup packed fresh mint
- 1 English cucumber, deseeded and chopped into ½-inch pieces
- Lots of ice, for serving
- Combine the strawberries, mint, oranges and cucumbers in a large bowl and set aside.
- Pour the Pimm's into a large pitcher and add the sparkling water. Stir gently.
- Scoop about ½ cup of the fruit mixture into four highball glasses. Add a few cubes of ice.
- Pour the Pimm's mixture into each of the four glasses and serve immediately.
- (Alternatively, to make a large pitcher to be consumed right away, add everything into the pitcher, stir and serve over ice!)
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