Notes on the official drink of tipsy toffs.
Lemon-flavored effervescent beverages
The Tricky Matter of So-Called Lemonade
When an Englishman says he wants lemonade, he means lemon soda. I think. Not sure. It is, like cricket, one of those phenomena Englishmen are very bad at explaining. Stateside, Brits tend to substitute its lemon-lime American cousins, and so you could buy a 2-liter bottle of Sprite or 7-Up or even show some love for Sierra Mist. But it would be better to round up 6 cans of lemon Kas, a Spanish brand manufactured by PepsiCo. San Pelligrino Limonata, like other delightful cloudy lemon sodas, is a bit tricky here, but studies show that it can work well in concert with crappy ginger ale so that that your drink comes out like a complex Arnold Palmer.
Real Lemonade for Real Americans
The New Orleans way of fixing Pimm's Cup relies on lemonade. If there are children around and you'd rather there weren't, then direct them to go in the kitchen and make lemonade fresh. Making Collins mix, which opens up interesting possibilities, is best left to youths who are mature enough to safely boil hot water for simple syrup but naive enough to think that, by mixing the stuff, they are joining in on your fun.
Slate believes bitter lemon to be the most essential Pimm's mixer, its quinine intersecting with the No. 1's at a fascinating angle. You can probably raid your local supermarket for six or eight one-liter bottles of Canada Dry Bitter Lemon, but if you're going to the wholesale beverage-supply outlet, then pick up a case and grab a dozen little bottles of Fever Tree Bitter Lemon while you're at it. You could also experiment with this home recipe, but note well that the children will start whining when they get chili powder in their eyes.
Lemon Perrier is a great way to stretch your Pimm's Cup out on those occasions when you don't want to stop drinking but you don't want to keep drinking. But be warned that you're putting yourself at risk to become the kind of person who goes around in public asking for "Pimm's and Perrier."
your mother-in-law's diet tonic water
No fewer than six pounds of cucumber and 72 lemons.
Relevant piece of Kingsley Amis wisdom (2 of 2), regarding lemons and cucumber: "Few such things are more worth the trouble than adding a little cucumber juice and lemon juice to each portion of Pimm's."
Mint brings a shine to the affair. In The Joy of Mixology, Jon Regen suggests basil. Parsley is possible. You've got tarragon left over from roasting a chicken? Put that shit in play. It would be most traditional to use borage, with its cucumbersome scent, and the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., goes the extra step of saying that garnishing your Cup with a borage flower adds a "touch of class."
Limes work especially well with ginger-dominant drinks. Oranges add color, so buy six, more if you intend on engineering something that might be socially acceptable to have at breakfast.
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries can be playful as garnishes and ravishing in decadent excess. This option begins to seem more desirable if the minors around are sufficiently minor to be conned into going out berrypicking.
Both green apples and good pears have a place here, especially if you are inclined to sangria-ize your beverage. (We are against sangrias, redolent as they are of overpaying for tapas at mid-20s birthday parties.)
one jar cocktail onions
two cans Roland Mandarin Oranges
two cans Dole Fruit Cocktail
four jars Earth's Best Organic Pear Puree Baby Food
the plums that were in the icebox
however many Collins glasses the movers didn't break
more pint glasses
two juice glasses
six mason jars
Of the many Pimm's Cup recipes available at Epicurious.com, our favorite is the one prefaced with the statement that "mason jars are a down-home way to serve the drinks." It is our duty as Americans to colonize the Pimm's Cup, to democratize it, to strip away its snootiness. "Anyone for Pimm's?" is their slogan; "Pimm's for everyone" is our motto. Also, you can use the lids to guard against being roofied.
If you are SINGLE, then invest in two plastic beer pitchers.
If you are MARRIED, then you will have more pitchers than you know what to do with.
If you are SEPARATED OR DIVORCED, then muster the will to rinse out a plastic soup container from your most recent order of greasy Chinese take-out.
If you are WIDOWED, then there might be an urn around.
three or more silver trays
uneasy commingling of nostalgia and dread
In her essential book How to Drink, Victoria Moore writes of the melancholy problem of the first sip of summer: "Pimm's for me is much more about the moment than the taste, which is perhaps why pleasure decreases exponentially until what began as a glowing glass full of promise becomes a sickly confection. … I only ever drink it once a year. But on that first Pimm's day, I love it—so enjoy it while you can."
Invite people over. Mix.
Troy Patterson is Slate's television critic.