Pimm's; The Secret is Out
No English summer is the same without a chilled glass of Pimm’s in the garden; it's the classic British outdoor refreshment which is enjoyed by everyone from students skipping lectures to middle-aged ladies playing croquet on their husbands' freshly-mowed lawn. It's a fruity red long drink which is normally made mixing a bottle of Pimm's with lemonade and adding a mish-mash of fruit, mint, ice and cucumber. And yes, the cucumber is essential!
But the fact is you can't buy Pimm's in Iceland and even getting it duty free at a price of around £13 a 70cl bottle is not exactly a sharky bargain. And why should Pimm’s, with its now cowardly 25% alcohol, cost the same as a bottle of 40% vodka or gin?
Google the words ‘Pimm's recipe’ and you are faced with a variety of ‘home-made’ alternatives to the pricey original. They all have the same basic ingredients; gin, red vermouth and orange curaçao. Of course what we’ll never know is exactly what sort of herby, spicy flavorings they add to Pimm’s Original No.1, but nor do we need to. You can make a far nicer, cleaner, more aromatic glass using my GastroShark recipe here than you can using the watery, sugary original. The secret? Use high-quality spirits and select a few fresh ingredients, and don't forget the cucumber! And don't Icelanders just love exotic cultural British imports? And even better if it involves sitting outside in the sun drinking alcohol.....
Here’s how you do it: To make the base, mix 1 part gin to 1 part red vermouth and add half a part orange curaçao. Make sure the gin is at least 40% alcohol and of a high quality, or it will lack that vital kick. I find Tanqueray Export Strength gin at 47.3% the best for the job. You can use Cointreau or Grand Marnier if you don’t have any plain orange curaçao. For red vermouth, you need look no further than Martini or Cinzano. Then add a slice of fresh orange, lemon and cucumber per person, and a sprig each of mint. If you have time, leave to stand for half an hour to let the flavours infuse and then when ready, pour into individual glasses and top up with thoroughly chilled lemonade or, if you prefer a spicier note, use ginger ale. Avoid 7-Up, cloudy lemonade or other saccharin-loaded budget varieties.