The Kentucky Derby has its Mint Julep. The Preakness has the Black Eyed Susan cocktail. And if you’re lucky enough to snags seats for Wimbledon, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself sipping a few glasses of the enticing British potion known as a Pimm’s Cup. Even if you aren’t a tennis fan, or will be watching the tournament on the telly, this slightly spicy and refreshingly tangy tipple is worth discovering this summer.
The Pimm’s Cup’s origins date back to 1832, when London oyster bar owner James Pimm started offering guests a gin-based beverage containing quinine and a secret blend of spices. The elixir was dubbed as a digestion aid, and served to patrons in small tankards known as “No. 1 Cups”. The drink’s popularity quickly grew, and by the end of the 19th century it was ubiquitous all over the United Kingdom. The first Pimm’s bar opened at the 1971 Wimbledon tournament, and today over 80,000 pints of Pimm’s and lemonade are sold there to spectators each year. (The other de rigueur beverage at the renowned tennis championships, by the way, is Champagne. Not too shabby either.)
Its sprightly, striking garnish is an integral part of a well-made Pimm’s Cup. Purists wouldn’t dare use anything except mint, cucumber, strawberries and apples—in a word, only ingredients that are available in Britain. The classic recipe calls for one part Pimm’s to two parts lemonade—the Brits’ version is clear and carbonated, and if you can’t find it, you can substitute lemon lime soda. Modern variations endlessly tinker with the classic recipe, replacing the lemonade with ginger beer or tonic, and departing from the classic topper to decorate the glass with orange twists, pineapple slices or passion fruit. Any way it’s mixed, the fizzy, tea-hued sip is served with ice in a tall glass and artfully garnished.