An English import, the Pimm's Cup has been adopted by New Orleanians as ". . . the perfect quaff on a hot summer's day," according to the introduction to the drink in Ralph Brennan's New Orleans Seafood Cookbook on page 402. While controversy exists over the date of the drink's creation (ranging from 1821 to the 1840s -- Ralph Brennan's New Orleans Seafood Cookbook states 1823), it's agreed that the drink's creator was one James Pimm.
According to Wikipedia, James Pimm of Kent, England, came to the city of London in 1823 and bought an oyster bar near the Bank of England. Within ten years, Pimm had five oyster bars to his name catering to the financial elite.
Pimm's beverage was initially offered as a tonic specially designed to accompany the oysters. It was a gin-based beverage with quinine and herbs and served in a small tankard called a No. 1 Cup and intended to be an aid to digestion. The liquor concoction eventually became known as Pimm's Cup No. 1.
The recipe of Pimm's Cup No. 1 is a closely guarded secret. Only six people know the recipe according to CocktailTimes.com. The drink is embraced by the upper class of Southern England, being only one of two drinks offered at Henley Royal Regatta and the Glyndebourne opera festival (the other being champagne) as well as being the drink of choice for Wimbledon.
The drink entered the commercial market in 1859 with Pimm selling the business and the use of his name to Frederick Sawyer in 1865. In 1880, future London mayor, Horatio Davies, bought the business with a franchise of Pimm's Oyster House following in 1887. Pimm's No. 1 sold briskly to be joined by other Pimm's concoctions. Pimm's No. 2 (whiskey-based) and Pimm's No. 3 (brandy-based) were introduced in 1851 with Pimm's 4-6 created in the wake of WWII. Only Pimm's No. 1 is still regularly produced with Pimm's No. 6 (vodka-based) only occasionally produced and a version of Pimm's No. 3 called Pimm's Winter Cup produced during the holiday season since 2005. The others were phased out in the 1970s and 1980s.
Pableaux Johnson of Bayoudog.com describes a well-made Pimm's Cup:
"In the tongue, it's simultaneously fresh and light; spicy and tart. A slight, citrusy acidity complements sweetness from lemon-lime soda or lemonade (barkeep's choice) as the cucumber provides clean, vegetal flavors and a satisfying crunch for the salad-deprived."Ralph Brennan's New Orleans Seafood Cookbook uses sour mix and ginger ale to create the Pimm's Cup's signature bubbly citrus taste.
Wikipedia: "James Pimm" 10/08/07
Wikipedia: "Pimm's" 03/29/08
"CocktailTimes.com: "Pimm's Cup"
Bayoudog.com: "In the Cups: Pimm's Cup"
photo courtesy of mooganic, used under this Creative Commons license