Pimm's logoJames Pimm, owner of an oyster bar in Victorian London, designed his Original drink to wash down the oysters. This house blend, known as a ‘cup’, included ingredients common to many bars or pubs - gin, soda, lemon, sugar, quinine and spices.

What these ‘spices’ actually are is still a trade secret, supposedly known to only six people, but probably includes Seville (bitter) orange peel, cloves and cinnamon; giving Pimm’s Original Cup a taste of orange, Madiera cake and milk chocolate.

The original gin-based Pimm’s became so popular that 5 other versions were brought out based on scotch, brandy, rum, rye and vodka. Most of the later versions lost their popularity as tastes changed so were gradually phased out. The remaining Original and Vodka versions were joined by the spicier Pimm’s Winter in October 2005.

All Pimm’s are sold at 25 per cent alcohol by volume. This high level of alcohol is traditionally diluted by one-third with lemonade to give a long refreshing drink served in a tall Collins cocktail glass. Adding mint, strawberry, orange, cucumber and ice is suggested in many recipes, but it can turn your glass into more of a fruit salad than a drink. If you find adding lemonade makes the drink too sweet, as I do, try mixing your PImm’s with tonic water (then it becomes a Sundowner cocktail), champagne (a Royale cocktail), pomegranate juice (a Pimm Pomm) or ginger ale.

If you don’t want to do the mixing yourself, Pimm's and lemonade is available ready in 250ml cans and 1-litre bottles. You’ll find the commercial mix uses five times as much lemonade as Pimm’s and so is much more dilute than any homemade version. And if your fruit bowl is empty, you can now buy Frecco ice-cubes containing mint and slices of orange and cucumber ready to pop into your Collins glass.

FreccoIt may not be something you’ve considered before, but Pimm’s works equally well served straight from the bottle as an undiluted liqueur. Pimm’s Vodka Cup is a lighter version of the Original, it contains the same orange flavours but is missing the sweeter elements of chocolate and cake.

Drunk straight the Winter brandy version tastes very similar to the Original but with a great dollop of brown sugar, cinnamon and cloves. The back label on the bottle suggests you try the Winter version warmed with 3 parts apple juice – “perfect for an impromptu gathering or any festive occasion”.

PG’s Tips

Pimm’s No.1 is available at most supermarkets and off-licences, but Pimm’s Winter and Vodka Cups are slightly harder to get hold of.

Pimm's WinterWaitrose

Pimm’s No. 1 Cup. £16.79

Pimm’s and lemonade (250ml can). £1.59

Pimm’s and lemonade (6 x 250ml can). £8.99

Pimm’s Winter Cup. £12.79

Frecco ice for Pimm’s (packs of 10 ice cubes). £3.49

Frecco ice and lemon in one (packs of 10 ice cubes). £2.59


Pimm’s and lemonade (4 x 50ml cans). £5.99

Frecco ice and lemon in one (packs of 10 ice cubes). £1.99

Frecco ice and lime in one (packs of 10 ice cubes). £1.99


Pimm’s No. 1 Cup. £17.99

Pimm’s and lemonade (4 x 250ml can). £5.99

Pimm’s and lemonade (1 litre bottle). £16.79

Pimm’s Winter Cup. £9.99


Pimm’s Vodka Cup. £14.95


The only place I know that sells all 3 remaining Pimm’s Cups.

Pimm’s No. 1 Cup. £14.99

Pimm’s Winter Cup. £15.49

Pimm’s Vodka Cup. £14.95

Pimms On Tour

Free tastings of Pimm’s is available at summer festivals around the country.

Summer Sundae Leicester 10-12th August

Bristol Balloon Fiesta.co.uk 11-12th August

Notting Hill Carnival 25-26th August

Goodwood Revival 31 August-2nd September

This first appeared on Drink Up... With Paula Goddard on livingit.com 

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