Refreshing, festive, and delicious, the Pimm’s Cup is a consummate summer drink. The basis of the drink is a marriage of gin, fruit extracts, liqueurs, bitter herbs, spices, and sugar. And it is generally served with fizzy lemonade, soda, or ginger ale wherever warm weather and outdoor soirees align. The dramatic garnishes of cucumber slices, strawberry slices, citrus wheels, and fresh mint make it perfect for entertaining, both in glasses the hands of your guests or in a punch bowl as a centerpiece.
Named for the owner of a 19th century London oyster bar, James Pimm, the Pimm’s Cup No.1 is a gin-based liqueur that’s essentially a batched cocktail in a bottle. The term “cup” is interchangeable with “punch,” and Pimm’s recipe is in the lineage of a gin sling cocktail. To make the titular cocktail, combine Pimm’s No. 1 with lemon juice, ginger ale, and the appropriate garnishes.
Typically, a Pimm’s Cup is something thought of only as a brand name, but according to Sipsmith Gin founder Jared Brown, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of Mr. Pimm himself and make the drink your own.
“Sometime in 2009 or so, when Sipsmith was still in the original tiny garage, [Sipsmith co-founder] Fairfax Hall suggested one hot afternoon that we have a round of Pimm’s instead of the usual G&T,” says Brown. “He pulled out a bottle of Pimm’s, and I told him I didn’t need premix and stepped over to our makeshift bar.”
A spirit’s historian in addition to being a master blender, Brown knew offhand what general components would make a good Cup.
“I combined gin, vermouth, curacao, maraschino, and bitters,” says Brown, “Making it my own, as was the tradition with cups.”
Brown used gin that he infused with Earl Grey tea, a distillate of lemon verbena grown in his garden, then “filled glasses with ice, topped with lemonade, and garnished with fruit.”
This recipe evolved into Sipsmith’s London Cup, which is not available in the US at this time, sadly. Pimm’s No. 1 and Plymouth Fruit Cup, however, are available stateside if you’d like to go the classic route. Drawing inspiration from Brown, however, here’s a recipe you can use as a basis for a Cup with your own name on it.
How To Make Your Own Summer Cup
This is a perfect drink to batch in advance of an outdoor party, and you can steep it overnight in orange or lemon slices or your own choice of aromatics for an added depth of flavor.
- 3-Parts Gin (Sipsmith London Dry or Citadelle are great options)
- 2-Parts Sweet Vermouth (Such as a rich Cocchi or a lighter Martini & Rossi)
- 1-Part Dry Curacao (such as Pierre Ferrand)
- ¼ Part Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur (or you experiment with Campari or Aperol)
- A few dashes of aromatic bitters
When you’re ready to serve, pour the base mixture over ice, fill the glass with your choice of cucumber slices, orange wheels, lemon wheels, sliced strawberries and fresh mint sprigs, and top with lemonade, soda water, ginger ale, or your own combination thereof.