This Pimm’s Cup recipe is a light, fruity cocktail made with Pimm’s No. 1, lemon soda, cucumber, mint, and fruit. It’s the quintessential drink all over Britain on a hot summer day!. It’s the signature cocktail of Wimbledon, Henley royal regatta, polo matches, and garden parties. It’s also the perfect way to celebrate King Charles III’s coronation!
(This post was originally published on June 27, 2013. An Amazon Affiliate, I earn commission on qualifying purchases).
What is Pimm’s?
Pimm’s No. 1 Cup is a herb and gin-based liqueur. James Pimm, the owner of a London oyster bar, invented the drink sometime between 1823 and 1840 as a health drink. The original recipe included gin, quinine, and a secret blend of herbs that reportedly aided digestion.
Over the years, Pimm’s Cup numbers 2 through 6 were created, each with a different alcohol base. They included scotch, brandy, rum, whiskey and vodka. All have since been discontinued, or are produced in very limited quantities.
And so, gin it is, which is fine with me!
The year and a half I spent in London, I worked for a catering company in Wimbledon. That year, Boris Becker won the Men’s Singles. I remember the buzz and excitement.
Nearly every summer party during the London “season” featured a large pitcher of the classic Pimm’s Cup. It is said that more than 40,000 pints of Pimm’s Cup are consumed in the two weeks of Wimbledon.
I drank tall, fruit-filled glasses of Pimm’s at the Oxford-Cambridge Regatta on the Thames, at cricket matches, during weekends in Yorkshire, and, of course, at weddings.
You can make different cocktails with Pimms, but the traditional Pimm’s Cup recipe mixes Pimm’s No. 1 Cup with lemonade, borage, cucumber, and fruit in a highball glass with ice.
Pimm’s No. 1 is easy to find in most American grocery or liquor stores. But lemonade and borage are a bit different in the US than in Britain.
What about Pimm’s Cup and New Orleans?
While the hurricane might be the first drink you might think of when you think of New Orleans, the Pimm’s Cup became so popular there in the 1940’s they like to consider it one of their signature cocktails! After visiting the Napoleon House website, which is considered the jumping off point of the drink in the US, I noticed they use 7-Up and lemonade! Read on as to why their drink is not an authentic English Pimm’s Cup.
Is lemonade the same in England?
No! As with a lot of UK English words, the word “lemonade” translates to lemon soda in the US. This mistake happens a lot in the United States with the British drink shandy. A shandy is lager mixed with “lemonade” – which is lemon soda, NOT American lemonade!
While Sprite or 7-Up come close, British lemon soda is slightly different. It’s less sweet and less fizzy. San Pellegrino Limonata would work as well, and is a little less sweet than the typical American lemon-lime sodas. Whatever you do, don’t use American style fresh lemonade!
The traditional ingredient borage, an herb native to the Mediterranean region, is nearly impossible to find in the U.S. Use a mint sprig or two if you can’t find borage.
How to Make Pimm’s Cup
I created and tested three different cocktails using Pimm’s No. 1.
The first was Pimm’s and ginger ale. The second was Pimm’s and a less sweet sparkling lemonade (soda). The third was Pimm’s with an additional splash of Triple Sec to play off the orange fruit, and an extra shot of gin.
In the end we preferred the version with the sparkling lemonade, which my husband said “brought out the flavor of the Pimm’s.” The ginger ale and Triple Sec versions tended to mask the herbal flavor of the Pimm’s.
But just like Sangria, everyone’s recipe differs. Here’s what you’ll need for my Pimm’s Cup cocktail:
- Pimm’s Original No. 1 Cup (found in most liquor stores)
- Sparkling lemon soda or San Pellegrino Limonata soda. (lemon-lime soda, 7-UP, or Sprite can be used, but will have a sweeter taste)
- English cucumber
- Strawberries (quarter four, and reserve 4 for garnish)
- Orange, lime or lemon slices (or all three!)
- Sprigs of mint or borage
When making Pimm’s Cup, you can add the fruit and mint to the glass or pitcher first and “muddle” or gently crush the fruit to blend the flavors. You could also add the fruit after as a garnish. Muddling will give your drink more fruit flavor, but the result will be a little cloudier, rather than clear.
How to serve a Pimm’s Cup cocktail
The garnish is key! Cucumber slices or cucumber spears are mandatory. Additional orange slices, strawberries, and fresh herbs like mint or borage are also customary.
Is Pimm’s Cup a Strong Drink?
Since Pimm’s No. 1 is 25 percent alcohol by volume (50 proof), and the cocktail is further mixed with “lemonade”, ginger-ale, or club soda, the resulting beverage is lighter than many other alcoholic drinks. It’s perfect for an afternoon of tennis, a BBQ, or for sipping by the pool.
But be careful! This fruity Pimms punch can sneak up on you!
Can You Make Pimm’s Cup Ahead of Time?
Absolutely! In fact, this Pimm’s recipe definitely tastes better when the fruit has had a chance to infuse with the Pimm’s.
Mix the base ingredients several hours ahead of time and add the lemon soda just before serving. Freshen up the garnish if desired.
This Pimm’s Cup recipe will yield 4 servings and can easily be doubled, tripled or even quadrupled if you want to serve it in a large pitcher.
Pimm’s Cup is traditionally served in a tall glass like a Collins glass or these great looking acrylic highball glasses – perfect for summer pool parties!
What Do You Serve with Pimm’s Cup?
Planning an English-inspired party for Wimbledon or the King’s Coronation? Here are some delicious ideas for a summer picnic or garden party.
- Serve tea sandwiches or full sized sandwiches filled with Coronation chicken salad or Egg Salad. This Coronation quiche is another delicious option!
- Traditionally, Pimm’s Cup is served at Wimbledon with fresh strawberries. This fresh Strawberry Pie fits the bill!
- A Pimm’s cocktail will also pair well with Eton Mess or just a bowl of fresh berries and cream.
- 3/4 cup Pimm’s Original No. 1 Cup
- 2 cups Sparkling lemon soda or Sanpellagrino limonata soda. (7-UP or Sprite can be used, but will have a sweeter taste).
- 1 English cucumber peeled or scored and cut into slices
- 8 strawberries quarter four, and reserve 4 for garnish
- 1/2 orange sliced
- 1/2 lemon sliced
- 1/2 lime sliced
- 1 Sprigs of mint or borage
- In a pitcher, mix 3/4 Pimm's Cup, citrus slices, strawberry quarters and cucumber slices. Let sit for about 10 minutes. (Or several hours)
- Just before serving add 2 cups of lemon soda. Pour into 4 tall glasses filled with ice. Garnish with a strawberry and additional fresh mint if desired.
- This Pimm’s Cup recipe serves 4, but can easily be doubled or tripled!
- The fruit can be added to a pitcher with the Pimm’s several hours before so that the fruit can meld with the alcohol. Add the lemon soda just before serving.
- Pimm’s is usually made by the pitcher full, since it goes so fast. But you can easily make it by the glass.