“If Bloody Marys are fair game at 10am then I see no reason why Pimm’s isn’t as well!” declares Pritesh Mody, when I ask him, what time is Pimm’s o’clock?
As the resident drinks expert on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, and the man behind World of Zing which designs cocktails for iconic institutions such as The Langham, I think Pritesh’s answer may be deemed definitive, and the final word needed on this matter.
“I can just imagine Pimm’s as a brunch cocktail, with some nice salmon and eggs, and fresh sourdough – why the hell not?” Indeed! But isn’t Pimm’s a little sweet to go with salmon? “We’re thinking of two different drinks,” says Pritesh. “In your head, you’ve got the Pimm’s that’s almost syrupy because it’s not cold enough, so you’ve got that sickly, cloying mouth feel, whereas in my head I’ve got a very dry Pimm’s with grapefruit and basil, and I’m drinking it at a chilled temperature, so I’ve got a crisp, clean mouth feel.”
This explains a lot. I have predominantly drunk tepid Pimm’s from a slightly melted plastic cup, and it seems this may have marred my experience. Pritesh is incensed by the casual desecration of our nation’s summer drink: “Pimm’s is the British Aperol Spritz! We should be proud of how we serve it, and reclaim it as the quintessential drink!”
So how should we be drinking Pimm’s? Pritesh explains…
There’s nothing worse than a warm, watered down drink, so fill your jug or punchbowl with ice. Ice is the most undervalued component of any cocktail people make at home. If you don’t put enough ice in, the drink doesn’t get cold enough, and the few lonely cubes of ice you’ve got in there will melt really quickly, because less ice equals faster melting. The more ice you put in, the colder it stays for longer – and the colder the drink is, the better.
When life gives you lemons…
Stick with regular lemonade. Some people like to get fancy with posh Sicilian lemonade, and while it’s superior as a drink, it’s a little too sharp and too dry for Pimm’s. It turns it into a completely different drink, and not a Pimm’s as I would see it. Go with something like Schweppes for the right sweetness.
Shot in the dark
Bolster your Pimm’s by adding a shot of gin. The recipe for Pimm’s is a secret, but it has a gin base, so extra gin will add flavour and another layer of complexity, while retaining the core of what a Pimm’s should be. For a lower alcohol alternative, add a shot of vermouth instead – as a botanical inspired spirit, it has the complexity of gin, and even more body. If one or two Pimm’s is enough for you, a G&T is the natural follow on choice.
When it comes to fruit, get creative. Pimm’s season and berry season are one and the same, so have fun with raspberries and blackberries, or throw in peaches or pink grapefruit, which has an underlying sharp bitterness that gives it a more adult flavour. Play around with herbs. Mint is the traditional one, but basil is a great alternative that works beautifully with fruit, particularly strawberries.
Step by step
Fill the jug with ice, then add the Pimm’s. The classic ratio is one part Pimm’s to three parts lemonade, so measure this out. After the Pimm’s, add your extra shot of gin or vermouth, followed by the garnishes. Give it a stir so the fruit starts breaking up, then add the lemonade. Let it sit in the fridge for half an hour before you drink it to let the flavours infuse. If you make it up much earlier than you plan to drink it, make it without the ice then add that at the last minute so it doesn’t melt.
Mix it up
The Pimm’s will strip the flavour from the fruit, and release that back into the liquid, so all the flavours infuse. That’s why making Pimm’s in a jug or a punchbowl works so well, but if you only want to make one glass, give the fruit a little muddle (ie crush it gently), to release those flavours. Serve your Pimm’s in a spritz style glass – basically a wine glass – because it allows room for lots of ice and lots of fruit – which will now be infused with booze, so enjoy it!
A traditional Pimm’s is just Pimm’s and lemonade, but if you want to create a prestige version, then Pimm’s and fizz works wonderfully well. Serve it in a spritz glass with equal parts Pimm’s, lemonade, and either Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, or a dry British sparkling wine.
Pimms is incredibly versatile, but it’s a light, summery drink so if you’re having it in the afternoon, serve it with light, fresh summer canapes like seafood, fresh fruit, dips, a really fluffy hummus and fresh vegetables. You could even go a bit kitsch and have it with ham and pineapple, or ham and melon for that 1970s’ vibe.
Samantha Rea can be found tweeting here