Your Serve – Drink Pairing for the Australian Open
Wimbledon’s favourite drink is a natural choice for watching the Australian Open. But even if you’re not into tennis, Pimm’s goes down a treat on a summer afternoon.
Posh and pretty
It’s the taste of an English summer and the fruit-adorned drink of choice at events like Wimbledon, the Chelsea Flower Show, the Henley Royal Regatta and (of course) at the polo. At Wimbledon alone they serve around 320,000 glasses of the stuff over the course of the tournament. But the society credentials of the drink go back much further – it even made an appearance at Queen Victoria’s state luncheons.
Pimm’s No. 1 Cup was invented by the eponymous James Pimm, most likely in 1840. Pimm owned an oyster bar in London’s financial district and sold his tonic drink as a digestive aid. The blend of gin, herbs and fruity liqueurs became so popular that large-scale production began in 1851. There were other Pimm’s Cups with numbers 2 through 6, with different spirit bases, but most have long been discontinued.
A changing recipe
To make a Wimbledon-style Pimm’s, you mix three parts lemonade to one part of Pimm’s then add sliced oranges, lemons, strawberries and cucumber. Make it up in a jug half-filled with ice. Older recipes were less fruity. Pimm’s advertising from the 1950s recommends just lemon slices and a strip of cucumber peel.
Pimping your Pimm’s
Pimm’s is low in alcohol compared to spirits like whisky or gin, and then it’s diluted with quite a lot of soft drink. So some people like to add a slosh of gin for an extra kick. Or you could try a Pimm’s Royale, by topping up the glass with sparkling wine instead of lemonade. Use a bit of both and it’s a Pimm’s Spritz. You can also swap out the lemonade for ginger ale or tonic.
And serve with…
For the full English experience, dainty white-bread cucumber sandwiches are the go. Back in the 1950s, the Pimm’s people recommended Prune Surprises (oven-baked prunes stuffed with cocktail sausages and cheese) and Celery Dreams (chunks of celery filled with mashed tuna and mayonnaise). Very retro. We’d go for smoked salmon or maybe, in a salute to the drink’s inventor, oysters. But then, if you have all that fruit, who needs food?
Pimm’s on Bourbon Street
No-one knows quite how it happened, but New Orleans is an unlikely outpost of Pimm’s culture. First served in The Napoleon House bar in the French Quarter in the late 1940s, it’s now so popular in the southern city that many locals think it was invented there. The New Orleans version holds off on the fruit though. It’s served with a squeeze of lime, a couple of cucumber slices and a sprig of mint. It just goes to show that, with Pimm’s, you can do it your way.