Words by: Simon Difford
Fruit cups, quintessentially English summertime thirst-quenching drinks, were invented by the Victorians and were originally a mixture of fruit, liqueurs and spices with a base spirit of gin and usually made in the kitchen for home consumption. The best-known modern day commercial brand of fruit cup is Pimm's No. 1.
Victorians and were originally a mixture of fruit, liqueurs and spices with a base spirit of gin and usually made in the kitchen for home consumption. The best-known modern day commercial brand of fruit cup is Pimm's No. 1.
Pimm's No. 1 Cup, and other similar brands of pre-mixed fruit cup are usually served over ice, diluted with English-style lemonade (lemon-lime soda in the USA) or ginger ale. Tradition dictates these mixes are garnished with slices of citrus fruit, strawberries and English cucumber slices along with sprigs of borage or mint. In June 2015, the Telegraph reported "demand for Wimbledon Pimm's causes a cucumber boom" with the UK Cucumber Growers Association predicting "that more than seven million cucumbers will be needed to meet the demand for Pimm's this summer."
In England, the first rays of summer sun single the start of the seasonal sales of Pimm's and other fruit cups and during the summer months no outdoor festival or sporting event is complete without a bar serving Pimm's by the plastic cup and pitcher. The first Pimm's bar opened at the Wimbledon tennis tournament in 1971 and 450,000 glasses were sold during the 2014 tournament.
Fruit Cup - A refreshing long summery drink that's reminiscent of Pimm's, but better.
Fruit Cup Spritz - A light summery spritz with flavours reminiscent of Pimm's.
Pimm's Royal - Pimm's and champagne.
Pimm's Cup (or Classic Pimm's) - You've not properly experienced an English summer until you've drunk one of these whilst sheltering from the rain.
Pimm's Cocktails - Pimm's served short and strong with a splash of fizz.
Pimm's Royal - Pimm's and champagne.
Pimm's Spritz - The quintessential English summer refresher served with Italian sparkle.
James Pimm is usually credited with creating the leading pre-mixed fruit-cup brand, Pimm's and according to legend, he first served this at his Pimm's Oyster Warehouse in the city of London, close to the Bank of England in 1840.
James Pimm, a farmer's son from Kent, began trading as a shellfish-monger in 1823-4 on London's Lombard Street, before moving to nearby number 3 Poultry, also in the heart of the City of London. There he established Pimm's Oyster Warehouse and it is here in 1840 that he reputedly first served his fruit cup punch in 1840, and indeed, Pimm's bottle's label proudly claims "ESTD. 1840".
It could well be that the drink is named after the bar in which it was first served rather after the bar's original founder and that the famous fruit punch was actually first made by Samuel Morey, James Pimm's successor, who is recorded as taking out a retail liquor licence for Pimm's Oyster Bar in 1860.
Many establishments of the day mixed house spirits to serve with liqueurs and juices and called them "cups" after the small No.1 sized tankards in which these cocktails were sold. Naturally the "cup" made at Pimm's Oyster Bar was named "Pimm's No.1 Cup" after the restaurant, which retained the goodwill and name of its founder.
Pimm's restaurant became very popular and in 1865 the business was sold to Frederick Sawyer. Then, in 1880, Horatio David Davies, a wine merchant and owner of cafés in London acquired the business and rights to the Pimm's name. Horatio Davies became Sir Horatio, a Member of Parliament and, between 1897-1898, Lord Mayor of London. He formed Pimm's into a private company in 1906 and is the man who thanks to his society connections, made the drink fashionable. After his death the Pimm's company and brand was controlled by family trusts for another 57 years.
The precise date that the drink Pimm's was first sold outside restaurants and bars controlled by the Pimm's company is unknown. However, it is certain that the original product, Pimm's No.1, "The Original Gin Sling," was based on gin and flavoured with numerous botanicals including quinine, traditionally mixed with gin due to its medicinal qualities. It is one of the most famous gin cocktails of all time, albeit a premix.
A second Pimm's product based on Scotch (Pimm's No.2 Cup) was launched and a third (Pimm's No.3 Cup) was based on brandy. Pimm's became popular in Britain in the 1920s and took off internationally after the Second World War. Other versions were then introduced: Pimm's No.4 based on rum, Pimm's No.5 on rye, Pimm's No.6 on vodka and Pimm's No.7 on tequila.
In 1969, the brand was taken over by the company now known as Diageo and the original, gin-based, Pimm's was catapulted into the international league. The company focused on marketing No. 1, and the remaining versions were soon dropped - although No. 6, which is based on vodka, was later reprieved. In 2004, Pimm's Winter Cup was launched with other variations following since. Like the original No. 3, it is based on brandy with such suitably wintry additions as orange zest, cinnamon and caramel. Its flavour is altogether more robust and spicy than Pimm's No.1.
This London dry gin based aperitif is flavoured with cucumber, pink grapefruit, sweet and bitter orange peels, elderflower and ginger. It is designed to be served chilled on-the-rocks or with soda water or sparkling water, garnished with orange zest twist. Tonic water quinine with pink grapefruit juice and zest, cucumber, and faint honeydew melon, turmeric and green apple.
Originally launched in 1964 as the sixth Pimm’s variety, 50 years later in 2014 Diageo withdrew Pimm's No. 6 from the market sighting “low customer demand”. However, after consumer complaints the company later announced the brand would be reinstated in summer 2015.
Launched in 2013 as the seventh product from SLOEmotion (hence the name), No.7 is designed to be served like a summer cup, over ice mixed with four parts lemonade and served with fruit. Based on gin SLOEmotion No.7 is a blend of hedgerow, orchard and field fruits with hedgerow blossom and herbs. Sloe fruit and blueberries with faint cinnamon and black pepper spice.
Introduced in May 2014 as a summer limited edition, Bloom Strawberry Cup is made by steeping fresh English strawberries in Bloom London dry gin. Bloom Strawberry Cup is designed to be served mixed as a long drink with lemonade or as a cocktail ingredient. Strawberry and raspberry jam with biscuity vanilla. Think Jammie Dodgers.
Launched in April 2013, this is based on Pimm’s No. 6 Vodka Cup with added blackberry and elderflower flavours. Brand owner, Diageo commissioned British designer Oliver McAinsh to produce the English garden-style illustration for the label. Diageo recommends serving with two parts lemonade over ice. Tooty Fruity, fruit chew sweets/candy, blackberries and vanilla.
Launched in 2003, with a formula devised by Wayne Collins and adapted by Plymouth’s Master Distiller, Sean Harrison. Based on Plymouth Gin with vermouth, aromatic bitters and citrus extracts, it boasts an alcohol strength to match the original strength of Pimm’s. Available from the distillery. Initial orange zest quickly turns more lime cordial, candied citrus with herbal sweet vermouth like aromas.
A blend of Kingston Black apple juice (one of rarest vintage cider apples) and cider brandy, this is the West Country's answer to the fruit cup and is designed to be served in a similar manner to Pimm's. Just fermented apple, stewed apple and apple pie with berry fruit and nubuck leather.
Based on Sipsmith Gin with added fruits, herb and spices, including Earl Grey tea, fresh Lemon Verbena and cucumber, this summer cup is bottled at 29% abv, a bottling strength selected to mimic the original Pimm's bottling. Wonderfully aromatic nose like walking into a gin distillery's botanical store with pronounced juniper oils and herbal aromas, peppery spice and cassia with zesty citrus.
James Pimm is usually credited with creating this quintessentially English summertime thirst-quencher. He began trading as a shellfish-monger in 1823-4 on London's Lombard Street, before moving to nearby number 3 Poultry, also in the heart of the City. There he established Pimm's Oyster Warehouse. Watered down and spiced (cinnamon) cola with orange zest, freshly roasted coffee and complex herbal aromas.
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