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A tale of two Cocktails – one hot and spicey, one decidedly chilled.

Posted in Food & Entertaining, and Style & Travel

Cocktail-party-_2502341bThis week has been all about relaxing, winding down and taking time out. And there seemed no more appropriate way celebrate it than with a cocktail. Camparigirl is on her way up the coast to Oregon and the beach, and I have a nephew- and niece-free weekend ahead, with rain forecast. So we decided to go seasonal and offer something to sip on, wherever the weather finds you. Of course, if you are in the UK – both will work admirably. Cheers m’dears! IMG_2364camparigirl: Apologies to our English readers who will find this cocktail recipe a waste of their time but I feel the need to set the record straight for all the American bartenders who have ruined my favourite Summer drink: the Pimm’s Cup.

Pimm’s No. 1 is a gin-based liqueur which is as English as they come, and a staple thirst quencher since 1823 during the (usually rainy) English Summer. No Wimbledon or Henley Regatta would be complete without a glass of Pimm’s. I fell in love with it when I first moved to England and there is always a bottle of it at my house, right next to the Campari.

Lately, Pimm’s has been making an appearance on many an American drink menu and you would think that would make me happy. Wrong. If in England every dingy pub will serve you a perfectly prepared Pimm’s (maybe with fewer trimmings), here bartenders think the more liqueur in it, the better. Not so.

Much to everyone’s annoyance – bartender, waiter and my friends – whenever I order a Pimm’s Cup in LA I give very detailed instructions on how it should be made: with lemonade and not ginger ale; in a tall glass and not a whisky tumbler; and a 3 to 1 ration lemonade to Pimm’s and not vice versa.

When we used to entertain at our dismal London flat, sofagirl liked to prepare it in a large bowl, fruit punch style, with the cucumber and the fruit left to macerate, adding to the already spicy and fruity taste of Pimm’s. If you have never tried it before, you are in for a treat. If you are sitting in rainy England, have a Pimm’s and trust the sun will be back, just in time for Wimbledon. Maybe.

The Pimm's Cup
The Pimm’s Cup

This recipe is straight from the horse’s mouth – Pimm’s official website

  • 1 part Pimm’s No.1
  • 3 parts cold lemonade (in the States that translates to Sprite or SevenUp)
  • 1 sprig of mint, a slice of orange, a slice of cucumber and a strawberry for each serving
  • Combine and pour over ice in a tall glass. Stir and drink up.

Can be prepared in a large pitcher for multiple servings

PS: In the car, along with the dogs, suitcases, all my electronics, the coffee grinder and my favourite mug …goes my bottle of No.1 – I have a sneaky suspicion Oregonians are not big on Pimm’s. But I am determined to sip one, sitting on the deck of my little house on the river, while the sun goes down. Stay tuned for updates.

Spicy Mulled Wine

sofagirl: Mulled wine is another thing we owe the Romans a big “Grazie” for. They took their wine with them as they set out to conquer the world – adding spices and warming it when they hit the frozen climes up north. Everybody followed suit: Mrs Beeton featured a version in her cookbook, we all know Gluhwein, the Nordics drink Glogg – which they potently enrich with a vodka and port. And in Scotland – where the only summer heat is under their kilts – they warm their scotch. Attire and idea, undoubtedly inspired by the Italians.

Molto Aromatico Mulled Vino

  • Two 750-milliliter bottles (or the equivalent) fruity red wine, such as Zinfandel or Merlot (I had a couple of opened half-bottles of wine hanging around after tastings for Knead. They were both of a similar fruity, merlot-ish persuasion – so I mixed them in together to get my one full bottle.)
  • Zest strips from 1 orange
  • 100g/1/2 cup muscovado sugar or other dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoons black peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • One 3-inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 2 balls of allspice, gently dented
  1. The aromatics: Put the peppercorns, fennel seeds,allspice and cinnamon in a large tea ball or wrap them in cheesecloth and secure them with kitchen string. Or – if you are me, impatient, and have none of those to hand – toss them straight into the wine.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine the aromatics with the wine, bay leaves and orange zest.
  3. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Don’t boil or you will cook off the alcohol – and then what’s the point?
  4. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 30 minutes. This allows all the flavours to infuse.
  5. Remove the aromatics and orange zest (but reserve the latter to pop into your glasses). If you haven’t used a tea ball or cheesecloth wrap – sieve the wine through a fine mesh sieve to remove the aromatics.
  6. Stir in the sugar until dissolved, reheating gently but again, don’t boil

Serve warm, in glasses or mugs.

Note – Once cooled, the mulled wine can be poured into a pitcher or clean glass bottle, covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat gently when some sofa time is needed. I drank mine (immediately) out of an earthenware beaker from Morocco, a gift from my pal Maurits. And watched two episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” back-to-back. The wine was had a lovely spiced, peppery treacle taste to it. Heaven.

(Thanks to Marcia Kiesel at Food and Wine for the inspiration. This post was not sponsored by Pimm’s or anyone else for that matter.)

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  1. I drink Pimm’s cup when I go to New Orleans – I’m not sure why they are so popular in New Orleans, but they are. And they are perfect there!!!

    July 3, 2013
  2. Pimm’s afficionados in the UK have been muttering for several years that since the brand was taken over by Diageo it is not what it used to be. It was 40% ABV and is now down to 25% ABV but the price has never diminished- ha!
    Now Diageo is mucking about with the concept and bringing out ‘new’ varieties which are being heavily promoted.
    About 10 yrs ago the wine columnist of the Financial Times – fed up with the changes – printed a recipe for making your own ‘Cheat’s pimms’, and since then I have never bought a commercial bottle. It is simple and I defy anyone to tell the difference!

    Combine equal measures (by volume) of: gin, red vermouth and orange curacao, plus a good dash of Angostura Bitters. [the volume measure you use can be as little as half a cup, or 70cl bottles of each of the alcohols] Oh another point, don’t spend money on the gin, vermouth etc, supermarket own-brands are just fine

    Then dilute it exactly as Sofagirl recommends. Chin chin!

    June 30, 2013
    • You are awesome! Thank you! I read about the whole Diageo controversy and found the additional flavours they are trying to brand a bit bizarre. The drink is all about nostalgia and time standing still anyway. I will absolutety try your recipe and make a big bottle of it.

      June 30, 2013
  3. I LOVE Pimm’s! I always keep a bottle at home as well but I haven’t had any this year, due to the 12 degrees we are having right now in Nothern Europe! Gluhwein is a nice winter staple but too sweet for my taste ( plus, with all that sugar, you tend to have several fattening glasses before you can feel any positive effect on your mood 🙂

    June 29, 2013
  4. silvia

    Pimm’s has double avantages, it brings back nice recollections and tastes deliciuos.
    If anybody reading this never tried it, pls do yourself a favour and try it as soon as possible. Next time I’m in London it’ll be in my shopping list, eve though I might try here local groceries – Scaramagli might be worth a visit

    June 29, 2013
  5. Love this post, and especially what you mentioned about butchering the Pimm’s cocktail! More is not always better! I have such fond memories of summers in London sipping on this drink… Thanks for bringing me back !

    June 29, 2013

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