No, no, when I say it’s time for a “fruit cup” I’m not talking about a little container of grapes and cherries and stuff. I am talking about the British idea of a fruit cup! As Wikipedia explains:
“A fruit cup, also known as a summer cup, is traditionally an English speciality drink designed to be made into a “long drink” [an alcoholic mixed drink with a relatively large volume] with addition of a soft drink such as lemonade or ginger ale. Most commonly, these are gin-based, although there are some varieties based on other spirits such as vodka. The base gin is flavored with various herbs, spices, fruit, and botanicals as well as its strength reduced.”
I got to know what “fruit cups” were by virtue of accidentally tasting a Pimm’s fruit cup, which was so wonderful I wanted to know more about it. Specifically, I wanted to know: what is Pimm’s anyway? It turns out, after looking it up, I still have no idea!
Pimm, a farmer’s son in England, opened a bar in the City of London in 1823, across from Buckingham Palace and the Bank of England, two great places for potential customers! He started mixing a tonic (a gin-based drink containing a secret mixture of herbs and liqueurs) as an aid to digestion, serving it in a small tankard known as a “No. 1 Cup” – hence its subsequent name.
By the 1860s, Pimm’s was bottled. It is now produced by Diageo, a large company based in London whose other brands include Smirnoff (the world’s best-selling vodka), Johnnie Walker (the world’s best-selling blended Scotch whisky), Baileys (the world’s best-selling liqueur) and Guinness (the world’s best-selling stout). It is also the exclusive international distributor of José Cuervo (the world’s best-selling tequila). They seem to know their alcohol! (“Diageo” is an invented name composed of the Latin word “dias”, meaning day, and the Greek root “geo”, meaning world, and is meant to reference the company giving pleasure every day, everywhere.)
Pimm’s contains 25% alcohol (50-proof). Most spirits sold today contain 40% alcohol (80-proof), so Pimm’s is a relatively low-alcohol drink. Most commonly, it is mixed with lemonade or a soda like Sprite or Ginger Ale as well as fresh ingredients like cucumber and mint.
In a very humorous article on Pimm’s in “The Wall Street Journal,” the author wrote:
I HAVE NOT BEEN totally honest with my husband regarding my stance on the Pimm’s Cup. He is an Englishman, and to him, this fruity, boozy beverage summons a very particular set of sense-memories: lounging on riverbanks and playing lawn games on those two or three bathwater-warm evenings each year that the English refer to as “summer.” To these people, Pimm’s is sangria and margaritas and caipirinhas all rolled into one, the warm-weather drink to rule them all. To me, it tastes like Skittles dissolved in gin.”
Well, yes, precisely why I like it. Plus, if you get it with cucumbers, you can call it “salad.”
The “New York Times” has also been writing about Pimm’s noting that it is “consumed in ungodly amounts every year at Wimbledon.”
The simplest way to prepare it is to mix up Pimm’s, lemonade and 7Up, and top with a cucumber slice. Or you can consult a more official-looking recipe here, which provides precise amounts, and recommends you pair your Pimm’s Cocktail with a good book. Sounds perfect!