If you're like us, you look to the seasons for what to cook -- and what to drink. Get to the market, and we'll show you what to do with your haul.
Today: Managing Editor Kenzi Wilbur makes a case for muddling your market produce. Just add booze.
Genetics dictate that I’m predisposed to liking whiskey and campfires more than I am lawn cocktails and pastel cardigans. And yet every summer, circa July, I deviate for a Pimm’s Cup.
If you don’t do the same, you should: I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like a Pimm’s Cup. Much like the Tom Collins, it’s an agreeable soul, a refreshing blend of things that everybody is at least friendly with and nobody hates. You can set a pitcher of them out at a party without host anxiety. You can make enough for everyone to have two -- okay, three -- and never have to send anyone home. Pimm’s Cups are an easy, refreshing, low-alcohol win.
An oft-adapted blend of cucumber, strawberries, mint, and booze, the Pimm’s Cup cherry-picks the best produce from the recipes you thought you were going to make (the salad, shortcakes, and pesto can wait), and it gently suggests you combine it with a gin-based liqueur instead.
It may be a fruit salad of a cocktail, but it’s not a pushover: herbal botanicals (a "secret" recipe, according to the bottle's label) give it just enough funk going down. And if you top it with ginger ale instead of lemonade, it has a subtle sting. John Ginnetti -- the owner of 116 Crown in New Haven, where I had my first -- adds a squeeze of lemon before shaking to keep everything from skewing sweet.
The fatal mistake most Pimm’s Cups make is not embracing the whole garden-in-the-glass thing it already has going. It wants to be fruit-logged. It begs for a second cucumber slice. (Or, as Ginnetti says, at least “2 fingers’ worth” in the bottom of your shaker.) Here’s another thing to love: This cocktail measures itself in fingers and palmfuls and squeezes. For a drink with such a prim reputation, its execution is a little more country than we give it credit for.
Here’s how Ginnetti does it, and how you should do it, too: Throw two thick cucumber slices, a strawberry or two, and that palmful of mint into a shaker. Muddle like you mean it. Pour in the Pimm’s No. 1, add a squeeze of lemon to make sure everything is paying attention, then shake like it’s not 90 degrees outside.
If you’re looking for something a little more wide awake, add two squeezes of lemon. If you lean sweeter, toss your berries, as Ginnetti often does, in a slick of honey before you muddle them. If it’s booze you’re after, you can replace a measure of your Pimm’s with gin. I don’t, because the point of a Pimm’s cup is not to make a man out of you. But it’s open if you are.
You’ll want to double strain, lest you end up with something closer to a smoothie than a cocktail. And you’ll want to go all out with your garnishes. It's summer; your glass should look precisely like a circus.
A palmful of mint leaves
2 fingers’ worth of cucumber (about two 1/2-inch thick slices)
1 large or 2 medium strawberries
2 ounces Pimm’s No. 1
1 large squeeze of lemon
Best quality ginger ale
Photos by Eric Moran