Our friend Desson is visiting from his job in London, inspring us to break out the Pimm’s. What! You’ve never heard of Pimm’s?
Depending on who you want to believe, Pimm’s was invented by the proprietor of an oyster house in London’s financial district in either 1832 or 1840. Named James Pimms, he fashioned a tonic from gin, quinine and herbs and started bottling it to sell to other bars. Soon enough, he came up with other “cups” using different spirits–whiskey, brandy, rum, vodka–so numbers were added to distinguish one from the other. Pimm’s No. 1 is the familiar gin-based beverage. Most of the others either are no longer made, or are manufactured in such small quantities they are difficult to find.
The Pimm’s Cup has become the de riguer cocktail at Wimbledon, the Henley Yacht Regatta, as well as at British and American polo matches. It just doesn’t get any snootier than a Pimm’s Cup. We simply had to have one for Desson.
The traditional mixer with Pimm’s Cup is lemonade, but ginger ale is widely accepted. You can use champagne instead to create a Pimm’s Royale. We went with the ginger ale.
In a large pitcher, place 1/2 pint strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters, 1 lemon sliced into thin rounds, 1 lime sliced into thin rounds and 1 orange (blood orange if possible) sliced into 1-inch wedges. Mash the fruit lightly with a wooden spoon. You can do this several hours in advance and refrigerate if you like.
Next, add to the pitcher 3 cups Pimm’s No. 1, 48 ounces lemon-lime soda or ginger ale. Fill glasses halfway with crushed ice and add about 1/3 cup Pimm’s mixture. Fill glass with soda and garnish with a long baton of fresh cucumber. Congratulations, you may now serve one of the finest summer cocktails ever devised.
As you can see from the photo above, Pimm’s Cup works fine with almost any hors d’oeuvres, in this case calamari very simply fried with seasoned corn starch and served with a chili-garlic-spiked aioli. Dinner consisted of a salad of greens freshly picked from the garden and tender snap peas. We grilled a butterflied leg of lamb seasoned agressivley with a dry Middle Eastern rub, along with asparagus dressed with lemon and arugula flowers and a couscous salad containing our own fava beans.
For dessert, my wife prepared her signature chocolate strawberry short cake with chocolate whipped cream. We love it when friends come to dinner.