It's called "magic hour" in my business. That glorious time of day when the sun begins to set, bathing everyone and everything in the most flattering, golden-pink light. For a short time, every day...ordinary people look like matinee idols, small towns become captivating, and cities the stuff of postcards. That magic, in summer, begins somewhere around eight o'clock in the evening (as opposed to say, oh, four in wintertime...) and cries out for us to take a minute...sit down with a friend or loved one at the end of the day and have a little something to whet the appetite. It's that thing everyone is always saying...as a culture, we rarely take time to stop for a moment and reflect on the day and I think 'cocktail hour' is the answer!
Summer has always felt to me like the perfect season for cocktails. Winter 'cocktails' in Chicago mean mainly one thing: red wine. Well, ok, maybe two things: red wine and champagne! But, there's something about the luxurious stretch of evening in summertime, perhaps a terrace or patio for those of you who are lucky, and the silky whiff of warm air that calls for ice cubes clinking in a sweating glass with something refreshing in it. And if we're talking refreshing, and imminently quaffable, we're talking Pimm's Cup!
My friend, JB, introduced me to Pimm's a few years ago when she informed me that SHE was bringing the fixings for cocktails to a Memorial Day barbeque we were having. She arrived with a brown bag from which tumbled a strange assortment of bottles (ginger ale?), as well as a cucumber (??) and a lemon...she set to work like a master mixologist and voila...presented me with my first Pimm's Cup. A livelier cocktail you will not find. There's tartness from a lemon slice, and that fresh, herby aroma of the Pimm's, bubbles from lemon soda, graced with the clean crunch of a cucumber spear. Simply fantastic! I will be forever grateful.
After a little research, I found that Pimm's has been around for some time. It was invented in 1840 by James Pimm, a London oyster bar owner, who brilliantly decided to add quinine and herbs to his gin. There are various numbered Pimm's at the liquor store, but I just get Pimm's No. 1. (An English friend says that the others go with different alcohol bases, like vodka, etc...) According to the label, the recipe is "a closely guarded secret known only to six people". Oooh, love an aura of mystery!
This uses the recipe from the label with some slight modifications. Let me just say it is simply the most refreshing summer drink, AND goes exceptionally well with everything. So grab a bag of chips or put together a batch of deviled eggs and sit outside or sit on your sofa and take a minute to enjoy the magic of "cocktail hour".
Fill a tall glass halfway with ice. Add Pimm's to one third full. Add a half of a lemon slice. Top off with a lemon soda of your choice (I like Trader Joe's Italian Soda in the lemon flavor. Pellegrino Limonata is also fantastic. Ginger ale works, as does Sprite or 7-UP.) Stir, and garnish with a cucumber spear.