Drink of the Week: The Pimm’s Cup

Pimm's CupLike Campari, Sambuca, and the like, Pimm’s Cup #1 is a bottle you’ll see at a lot of bars but which, at least here in the States, no bartender ever seems to open and which most barfolk will tend to discourage you from trying. They have their reasons because, on its own, it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s a concoction of gin and various herbs that has a nicely sweet but also fairly bitter flavor. It’s somewhere between a liqueur and Angostura.

It may be a little harsh straight, but it can mix very accessibly. A popular cocktail classic in the UK that has been referenced on both “Mad Men” and “Boardwalk Empire,” Pimm’s Cup, the cocktail, combines this relatively low alcohol (50 proof) base spirit with various types of soda and fruit and vegetable garnishes.

In my experiments, I avoided some of the very elaborate recipes which are more like very large and very wet fruit salads and eventually settled on the simple recipe below, adapted freely from the method used by Minneapolis mixologist D.J. Kukielka. It’s a winner — a tasty refreshment for lightweights with discerning palettes.

The Pimm’s Cup

2 ounces Pimm’s Cup #1
4 ounces (approximately) ginger beer or ginger ale
Cut-up cucumber (to taste)
Cucumber slice (garnish)
Lemon slice (garnish)

Place cucumbers in cocktail shaker and muddle. (Having an actual muddler on hand is a real help here, and essential if you want a truly well-stocked bar.) Add Pimm’s Cup #1 and ice. Shake very vigorously and strain into a Tom Collins glass over ice (preferably crushed). Top off with ginger ale and garnishes. Stir with swizzle stick or barspoon.

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I’m barely exaggerating when I say that there are a million recipes for this beverage on line, and they’re all pretty different from each other, which I suppose befits a drink that is something like the British equivalent of sangria. I get the impression that you could pretty much throw any fruit you can think of in, if you want. Still, I had by far the best luck with the recipe above and, though it’s more expensive, ginger beer does work slightly better than good old Canada Dry.

If you want to be really authentic, however, be aware that the original recipes often call for lemonade. The confusion here is that what the British call lemonade and what we Yanks call it are two different things. UK lemonade is a lemon soda which some compare to 7-Up — and many online recipes specially call for American-style lemon-lime soda — but Brits inform us that true British lemon soda tastes fairly different than our uncolas. If you’re lucky enough to live in a city like Los Angeles with a large British ex-pat population and specialty stores to go with it, or want to go online and don’t mind spending a little extra cash, I bet you can find some and go full Brit.

  

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Drink of the Week: Tom Collins

Tom Collins cocktailSummer is on in earnest now. Even here at drink-of-the-week central, in late-to-warm-up semi-coastal Southern California, the temps are finally starting to hit the eighties. So, it’s time to highlight some good warm weather drinks and Tom Collins is an excellent place to start. Though the genesis of the name remains a topic of speculations — we’d go into it, but it’s just too hot — and rather nasty Collins mixes have besmirched its mysterious monicker, this is an excellent and easy to make classic refreshment. It’s also substantially less rich in sugar and calories than drinks containing pre-made sodas, including the venerable gin and tonic. (Tonic water might taste slightly bitter, but it’s as high in calories as most sugary sodas.)

Tom Collins

2 ounces gin
1-2 ounces lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons superfine sugar
Soda water
Lemon slice and maraschino cherry (garnish)

Dissolve sugar in lemon juice in, naturally, a Collins glass. Add ice, gin and fill the balance with soda water. Stir with swizzle stick or cocktail spoon, add lemon wedge and a very optional maraschino cherry as garnish.

As you can see, we’ve left a considerable amount of wiggle room here. If you like your drinks very tart, use two ounces of lemon juice and one teaspoon of sugar. If you have a slight sweet-tooth like we do, use just one ounce of lemon juice and 2 teaspoons of superfine sugar. It’s still fairly tart but not alarmingly so, and those two teaspoons of sugar only have 32 calories, about half of what you’d get out of half a can of soda. Of course, the gin has more.

Speaking of gin, there are, of course many variations using other booze. The most popular being the vodka Collins and John Collins (aka, the whiskey collins). We love the latter a lot, but looking at the Wikipedia entry for the drink, we’re joansing to try the Jose Collins (with tequila, naturally), the Ron Collins (with rum), or the Sandy Collins (with Scotch). On the other hand, we have no desire to try the Phil Collins, a mocktail, which substitutes 7-Up for the booze. However, we are still trying to figure out a good “Susudio” joke, except that there probably is no such thing…

  

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