The Pimm’s Cup is a quintessential British drink. Its base ingredient is Pimm’s No. 1, a low-proof, slightly citric, gin-based aperitif liqueur that has been quenching summer thirsts for more than a century and a half. Other brands of so-called “fruit cups” are sold in the UK, but Pimm’s is the only one to be widely distributed this side of the pond. Served tall, topped with a little of what the Brits call “lemonade”—more like our lemon-lime soda—and garnished with herbs and a slice of cucumber, it becomes the classic Pimm’s Cup cocktail. A veritable picture of refreshment, it’s a fixture at lawn parties and the unofficial cocktail of Wimbledon.
Which raises the question of what it has to do with Texas. At the Monterey, in San Antonio, bar manager Karah Carmack has turned the staid Pimm’s Cup into a cornucopia of cocktail variations. Each week she coordinates with her produce purveyor to acquire fruits at the peak of their season, from which she creates a jam that is shaken into the cocktail. Then, instead of lemon-lime soda, she tops the drink with a house-made ginger beer that also makes use of seasonal produce. At press time, the jam was being made with pineapple and assorted berries, the ginger beer with mangos. As for the garnishes, always a striking feature of the Pimm’s Cup, anything is fair game; right now Carmack is using pea shoots and candied ginger. And right now is also a good time to head to San Antonio if you want to sample the drink in its native habitat: after five years, the Monterey is closing on November 4.
Seasonal Pimm’s Cup
1 1/2 ounces Pimm’s No. 1
3/4 ounce seasonal jam of your choosing
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
ginger beer or lemon-lime soda
your choice of herbs and seasonal fruit, for garnish
Combine first four ingredients in a mixing tin. Shake vigorously with ice to chill. Strain over fresh ice into a Collins glass and top with ginger beer or soda. Garnish with herbs and a slice or round of fruit.