How to make a Pimm's Cup.

How to make a Pimm's Cup.

How to make a Pimm's Cup.

Wine, beer, and other potent potables.
June 30 2011 5:09 PM

Patterson's Pimm's

Notes on the official drink of tipsy toffs.

Pimms Drink. .

The Pimm's Cup is the established tipple of posh summer sport everywhere treasure rhymes with leisure. Originated in the mid-1800s as an afternoon refreshment for London money men, the drink now epitomizes "seasonal events featuring irritating rich people"as the Guardian  put it last year. Its existence is inextricably tied up with ad campaigns celebrating polo and ironically twitting twits, and its name is guaranteed to pop up whenever people publish things like The Official Filthy Rich Handbook and The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous Cookbook. On the blog Luxist, Jared Paul Stern conjures the image of "British officers quietly having one too many in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, and tipsy toffs doing likewise at the Henley Royal Regatta."

Troy Patterson Troy Patterson

Troy Patterson is Slate’s writer at large and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine.

But maybe you're a Pimm's tippler who cannot get yourself to the finals of the All England Lawn Tennis Championships this weekend (more than 200,000 glasses served!) or to the Henley (where they insist on garnishing with strawberry, cucumber, and orange). Maybe you're instead heading down to the Cape for a long weekend or crashing indefinitely at your in-laws' in the 'burbs. Or, maybe you'll be watching posh sport on the "telly" in your apartment. The purpose of these notes is to help any bartender anywhere keep up the Pimm's Cup spirit with élan. We ask only that you approach the task with a slight case of Anglophilia and a keen thirst for day-drinking.

Our hardware guidelines are arranged to serve both a veteran drinker with a tricked-out mixological workshop and a neophyte tinkering in a rude bachelor laboratory. Mindful of the reader who is fixing drinks on a stranger's tailgate, in a Spartan country cottage, at a pay-by-the-hour motel, or aboard a half-completed Death Star, we stress flexibility.

one sharp paring knife

spare paring knife
cutting board
fire extinguisher

measuring spoons
citrus reamer
two pint glasses
two ice buckets
oars, racquets, cricket bats, bridle bits, etc.   

Wild Cards 
grapefruit spoon
pool table
ice pick

Relevant piece of Kingsley Amis wisdom (1 of 2), regarding the electric blender: "Unnecessary, though by all means use one if you are quite confident of not having to clean it afterwards."


Our approach, which promises to yield at least one perfect Pimm's Cup, involves a lot of trial and a little error, and it expects you to join with other good fellows and ladies in subjecting one another's experiments to intensive peer review. The literature of the Pimm's Cup is lousy with dogma, but we come not to curse any particular recipes, no matter how disgusting, except those involving Rose's Lime Juice. Rather, we hope to light a thousand flames and that each of these gets five or more friends lit.

Edit according to fiscal, temporal, and spatial restraints. Adjust volumes and ratios according to taste or lack thereof.

Thirty pounds of party ice is not too much. Some will melt. Some will be used with the excess of mixers listed below to concoct nonalcoholic drinks for children, designated drivers, and persons treating chlamydia with antibiotics. Some will be placed in sandwich bags and applied to areas of injury.


Six 750 ML bottles of Pimm's No. 1, a mysterious potion of dry gin, fruit, herbs, botanicals, spices, and artificial caramel coloring.

Pimm's originated as the house digestif at an oyster bar founded by James Pimm. The 1882 edition of Dickens's Dictionary of London lists its location in the Poultry, meaning that it stood within a short stumbling distance of the Bank of England. The matter of whether Mr. Pimm himself invented the concoction is as murky as its flavor, but it is clear that a subsequent owner—Lt. Col. Sir Horatio Davies, later the Lord Mayor of the City of London—expanded the restaurant into a chain, bottled the booze for broad consumption, and authored its modern identity.

New bottles are 50 proof. Some refer to Pimm's as "a cocktail in a bottle," a phrase that may deceive you into trying it unmixed, which produces a peculiar taste sensation. It is as if a quantity of fresh mulch has doused an insurance fire at a candied-orange factory—inside your mouth. You sit there scrunching your face at the baroque bittersweetness, wondering why you're not having a Campari or an Aperol instead. But to balance the earthy zest of Pimm's No. 1 with other liquid zings and refreshing things is to reveal a unique richness.

If your neighborhood liquor monger does not carry Pimm's, then kindly ask him to do so. If he refuses, then move to a better neighborhood. Buy four bottles of Gatorade for the moving guys.

The instructions on the label are straightforward, deceptively so, telling you to pour Pimm's over ice and add ginger ale or lemon-lime soda.

More gin. Serious cocktail people will want to pick up a fifth of Hendrick's so as to play its notes of rose and cucumber off of the fragrant base. Unserious cocktail people are probably picking up a handle of Gordon's anyway.

Wild Card

Effervescent Beverages

Ginger-flavored effervescent beverages

A case of Gosling's Ginger Beer will help you construct a dark, rich version  of this drink. The effect is faintly tropical but hardly frivolous—a sturdy palm tree on a breezy shore. Cut into your Gosling's budget to get some kicks from at least 24 ounces of one of the fancy-ass ginger ales that the Wall Street Journal is high on. Also invest in a six-pack of cheap stuff, Seagram's or whatever, to be plashed and trickled around, bearing in mind that if you rely on the stuff too heavily, you will start feeling premonitions of a hangover around your fourth or fifth sip.