And, if James Pimm is to be believed this is good for you – that is because Victorians believed in alcoholic ‘tonics’.
Mr Pimm owned an oyster bar in the City of London and began to sell this gin-based drink, a concoction of spirits, herbs and other liqueurs, to his customers. Legend says it was served in a small-sized tankard known as a ‘number one cup’.
The drink became so popular that he soon began large scale production and sold it around the city. Mr Pimm sold his business on and by the 1880s Pimm’s Oyster Houses were a franchise.
A variety of different ‘number’ cups followed based on different spirits. For today’s market there is still the original number one; a vodka cup and a spicy winter cup to serve warm. The latest editions are a strawberry flavoured and also a blackberry and elderflower and a cider cup.
But it is the original number one that everyone associates with summer. Traditionally it was served with the herb borage, a cooling, cucumber-like taste, but today mint and cucumber are used.
How to make perfect traditional Pimm’s
One part Pimm’s
Three parts lemonade
Borage, if available
Mint, crushed to release its oils
Slices of cucumber
Slices of orange
Strawberries, sliced or quartered if you are feeling very modern
Lots and lots of ice
Serve in a tall glass or a dimple half-pint pot with a generous amount of ice
The modern Pimm’s has strawberries but how about leaving the strawberries out and instead adding the merest dash of Pimm’s to your serving bowl of strawberries? (Not recommended where children, non-drinkers, or drivers are involved.)
Do not make too far in advance or the lemonade goes flat and the soft fruit gets mushy; far better to chill jug, Pimm’s and lemonade and assemble as needed.
Have far more ice and fruit prepared than you think you will need because one jug is never enough.
And remember apple, pineapple, maraschino cherries, little paper parasols and sparklers should never be allowed anywhere near a glass of Pimm’s