Dazed with that question? But if you are an English citizen lazing in the sun one summer day when the Wimbledon tournament is just around the corner, the question is definitely not out of place.
I have always wondered what this bottle named Pimm’s cup 1 that adorns the shelf in one of the bars in my town means. Never seen anybody placing an order for that. Never seen the barman ladling it onto some glass for a customer. The bottle would sit grim on its place even when lavished with all the bar lights trained on it.
Well, Pimm’s is a liquid fruit cocktail or what you can even say is a fruit salad infused with herbals and a dash of gin.
It is a liquor born in England in the 19th century, when Pimm, a farmer’s son from Kent, who later became the owner of an oyster bar in the city of London, decided to throw into his secret cauldron an assortment of herbs, liqueurs, gin and who-knows-what-else.
Such cheek he had, Pimm bottled the new drink, intended to be a health tonic, after his own name. ‘Pimm’s No. 1 Cup’ was born.
The drink was an instant hit.
His secret mixture became so popular that Pimm started producing it commercially and exporting it to countries as far as Canada, Australia, India and the Caribbean. Motivated, Pimm’s experimented with other liquors as base for new avatars.
So Pimm’s No. 2 Cup came out with Scotch whiskey as its soul, No. 3 with brandy, No. 4 with rum, No. 5 with rye whiskey and No. 6 with vodka. But nothing was as successful as the initial one - the No 1 cup - and so, the rest were slowly phased out from the scene (save the No. 3 cup, which is known as the Pimm’s winter cup and also the limited edition of No. 6 cup).
Across the country, in New Orleans, America, Pimm’s became a great success with one of the restaurants, the Napolean house, introducing new varieties of the original drink to its patrons.
Tell me, how they do it with the Pimm’s!
At the Napolean house, they serve you a tall glass of ice, with one part of Pimm's No. 1, three parts of lemonade, topped with a splash of 7up and garnished with a cucumber. Some customers who don’t want it sweet, like to see lime and mint added, or a combination of tonic water and club soda.
In 1865, Pimm sold the drink to another entrepreneur, Frederick Sawyer, who knew it well that any attempt to change the name of the already popular drink would be suicidal. In 1880, the future Lord Mayor of London, Horatio Davies acquired rights to Pimm’s and opened a chain of Pimm’s Oyster Houses. The drink finally became part of the Diageo Company towards the end of the last century.
So we only have to go to England, especially southern England to see what a rage this silent bottle now tucked into one corner of the shelf inside the bar and rarely sought after, really is. Come Wimbledon tournament, hundreds of tennis lovers sit under a punishing sun, relishing Pimm’s No. 1 Cup.
Nearly 40,000 pints are sold during the season. Just in two weeks. Imagine.
Behind the dark-brown or reddish tint of the drink lies the subtle hints of spice and citrus fruits. If you want it in English style, drink it either with lemonade or with garnishes of chopped fruits -apples, cucumber, oranges, lemons, strawberry etc. A dash of mint will give it a zing. It is kosher to mix it even with champagne.
So next summer, catch a flight to Wimbledon when it gets to Pimm O’ time. Or ask your local bartender for a peg of that bottle on the shelf and catch his brows raise in wonder or respect.
(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog - A Cup of Kavitha - introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)