There were at least seven different versions of the Pimm's Cup at one time
The Queen of England has even been rumored to enjoy this cocktail
Napoleon might have something to do with why Pimm's is so popular in NOLA
Makers of this drink are encouraged to freestyle the recipe
The Pimm's Gin was originally served in a small tankard called a No. 1 cup, hence the name, Pimm's No. 1 Cup
Are you missing those long summer nights like I am? Never fear, dear reader, as I share with you the nostalgia of sipping a cool, refreshing, and slightly boozy delight as we run from the beams of the sun.
In other words, It's Pimm's O'clock! (As they say in England.)
The Pimm's Cup (or the 'Fruit Cup in a Glass' as some call it) is a popular summertime drink born in the UK and made even more popular down here in the American south.
Lend me your eyes as we take a waltz down memory lane to see just how the Pimm's Cup rose to prominence and became such a summertime necessity.
The History of the Pimm's Cup
The creator of this fine fusion-in-a-cup is none other than James Pimm. Pimm was a fishmonger who opened an Oyster house between 1823 and 1840 in South London and was looking to set himself apart from the surrounding competition.
He wanted to concoct a special gin-based liqueur that would be used as a special cocktail's base, which would be a medley of Gin, various herbs and spices, fruit, and quinine to help aid in the digestion of his oysters. (Quinine was also used as an aide to treat malaria. Two birds, one stone, I suppose.)
Pimm was also looking for something low in alcohol content but delicious enough that customers would inevitably order one after another.!
And how very delicious it was! However, Pimm kept quiet about the contents of this sweet, spicy, and complex concoction. So quiet, that It is said that none but SIX people alive know the true recipe of the Pimm's Gin.
Kind of like Coca-Cola! My whole paycheck will go to the guy who can get me THAT recipe.
As it happened, the Pimm's No. 1 Cup was a hit! In 1851, no.2 (with scotch whiskey) and no.3 (with brandy) were released to the world. Pimm's started its big-time production in 1851 with a plan to try to keep the competition as far in the rearview mirror as possible; and that it did!
By 1859, the Pimm's Gin was sold commercially, and by 1865, James Pimm sold the use of his name and product to one Fredrick Sawyer. Four more versions of Pimm’s went into circulation, with the base alcohol changing from Gin, whiskey, brandy, rum, vodka, and tequila.
Almost 20 years later, Frederick Sawyer then sold the business to the Mayor of London, Horatio Davies. Under Lord Davies's leadership, the oyster house and Pimm's became a solid franchise by 1887.
However, the brand fell out of favor between the 1970s-80s. The Distiller Company, the new owners of the Pimm's franchise, phased out the Pimm's No.2-5 and were bought out by Guinness PLC in 1986.
As the years rolled by, consumers decided that nothing beats the classics, making it so that Pimm's no. 1 (with Gin), 3 (with brandy), and 6 (with vodka) were the only versions that are still in circulation today.
Pimm's Cup is widely enjoyed in Britain throughout the summer months and is the most popular in Southern England. It's considered something akin to a cool iced tea (driven through Long Island) that you would sip with friends in the shade to pass the time.
And it has also been rumored that Queen Elizabeth II has a whim for the Pimm's if you will. Hey, if it's good enough for the queen, it's good enough for me!
Wimbledon Tennis Tournament
The Pimm's Cup is one of the two signature drinks of the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament. (The second is champagne.)
This tournament is considered the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, and it has been held in Wimbledon since 1877. This tournament is also where the first Pimm's bar opened in 1971. (Yes, it is a thing.)
Over 300,000 Pimm's Cups are sold to fans every year. It looks like no sporting event is official without its staple drink. We are nothing if not traditionalists, amiright?
The Voyage to New Orleans
Many believe that Pimm's Cup was invented in NOLA somewhere within the 1940s at the famed Napoleon House. Now, we know this isn't true because Pimm's was undoubtedly born in London long before.
But that begs the question: how on earth did this fruity libation make it to America? And down to the swamps of Louisiana, no less?
Napoleon House was originally home to New Orleans Mayor Nicholas Girod. Girod served as Mayor from 1812-1815, and this building he lived in got its name because Girod kept it ready as a welcome escape for Napoleon Bonaparte if he was ever be exiled from France.
You know all about Napoleon Bonaparte, right? Either way, there’s no time like the present for a quick refresher.
Napoleon Bonaparte, born August 1769, was a legendary political and military savant, and Emperor of France, who rose to fame during the French Revolutions due to his impeccable and undefeatable military strategies.
Now in case you didn’t know, NOLA was, for a long while, a French colony overseen by Napoleon Bonaparte. Brilliant though he was, Bonaparte was not bulletproof.
While fleeing from Prussian troops after an immense defeat in The Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon considered seeking asylum in the US, namely New Orleans.
That's where Nicolas Girod comes in with Napoleon House.
Girod was a friend and a fellow Frenchman to Napoleon, and he prepared his home for Napoleon should he ever seek asylum from France. Sadly, Napoleon never made it to NOLA because he was poisoned and killed in St. Helena after being exiled and imprisoned there by the British.
As to the origins of Pimm’s Cup at Napoleon House, presumably a British expat living in New Orleans decided that swampy summers were hot, and he knew just the medicine.
The refreshing Pimm’s Cup is a smash hit at Wimbledon, which begins at the end of June. It’s right at home on a sweltering Louisiana summer’s day. A match made in heaven!
Today, Napoleon House is one of the oldest and most historic buildings in NOLA that sits on the beloved streets of the French Quarter.
Napoleon House is also where visitors from near and far tend to come and taste their first Pimm's Cup, where they sell three different versions of the popular cocktail.
Others visit to sample their excellent Louisiana cooking, from favorites like Jambalaya and Gumbo to an Alligator Sausage Po Boy, for those who want a taste of the swamp.
Now...what exactly is in the Pimm's Cup, anyway?
The Pimm's Cup as we know it today was born in Britain and migrated to New Orleans almost 200 years after its birth. The most popular version of the cocktail uses Gin as its base.
It is served with either sparkling lemonade (if you're going for the British version) or some lemon-lime/citrus-based soda (more favored in NOLA).
It is also served with copious garnishes and fruit infusions, like oranges, apples, strawberries, mints, and cucumbers. Basically, if it's colorful and grows out of a tree or in a bush, dump it in there!
The fun thing about the Pimm's Cup is that you can make it any way you like. No one is going to send you to an early grave if you have your own way of making it; it's encouraged! However, the cherry on top that brings the cocktail all together is the garnish. The bigger and more colorful, the better.
The cocktail is about 25% alcohol, with the rest of it being a lightly fruity and herbal fusion that is destined to knock your socks off. So much so that it has a reputation for bringing the beast (violent, sexual, or otherwise) out of people.
This is probably due to its low alcohol content, which, after consuming a couple, has a way of sneaking up on you.
So, reader, beware! Sip your Pimm's Cup with caution because before you know it, one cup may turn to three, which could turn to ten, and you would be none the wiser. Enjoy the ember-colored emulsion coupled with any fruit or veggie you could imagine. Invite a friend and take a seat in the shade. Tell them to meet you no later than at Pimm's O'Clock!
Pimm's Cup Cocktail
1 cup of Pimm's No. 1 Gin
3-4 strawberries (sliced)
1½ cups lemon-lime soda or citrus-flavored soda
Garnishes for the drink - fruit slices/ herbs of your choice
Soak the Pimm's No. 1 Gin with fruit slices/herbs of choice in a large pitcher. Place in the mix in the refrigerator between 30 mins to 12 hours.
When ready to serve, add the soda to the pitcher.
Toss in fruit/herbs of choice and stir.