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Gill-ty Pleasures: It’s Pimm’s O’Clock!

As someone who is generally content with just ice and liquor for my imbibing needs, I had no idea the extent of cocktail possibilities until I met Melissa Gill. Whatever the occasion, she always has the perfect cocktail pairing in mind. She brought hurricanes to Sara’s Mardi Gras party (naturally), French 75s to Thanksgiving, and made old fashioneds to help us pack for her move to Seattle. I’m so impressed by her mixology skills that I’ve asked her to be my roving cocktail reporter, which, graciously, she’s agreed to do. So, I’d now like to introduce a new occasional column by this mixologist with the mostest called Gill-ty Pleasures. The column will be an account of her adventures in booze and her reports from the front lines: new drinks; perfected recipes for traditional ones; food and booze pairing ideas. For her first feature, we did a Pimm’s Cup taste-off together. I was happy to help. In the name of research.

“It’s Pimm’s O’Clock!”
After traveling to Dubai last December to visit my Dad, Pimm’s Cups have become a recent obsession of mine.  Dubai has a large population of English expatriates, so there is an influx of British cuisine and drinks. I haven’t seen the cocktail much around my favorite haunts in Chicago, so Kate and I decided to have a Pimm’s Cup evening.

Pimm’s falls under the fruit cup cocktail category, an English drink that is most often gin-based. Typically, the base alcohol is flavored with fruits, herbs, and spices, which also help to reduce the alcohol strength.  Often, the liquor is mixed with a soft-drink and various fruits, such as strawberries, apples, oranges, and even cucumbers.  Although Pimm’s No. 1 is gin based, there are actually a variety Pimm’s based with vodka, rum, brandy, and whiskey. Most have been phased out of production.

When I started researching recipes, I noticed not only the prevalence of recipes, but a wide variety of ingredients of each. The recipes seemed to fall into two categories, those with Pimm’s and an added sweetener, and those that include an additional liquor, such a gin or vodka. We selected three recipes and sampled each.  Although they were all quite good, there was one clear winner.

But first, the runners up:

Pimm’s Cup, Runner Up #2
Adapted from Food Network

2 oz. Pimm’s No. 1
6 oz. ginger ale
2 oz. lemon lime soda or club soda
1/4 c. cucumber pieces

Put ice in a highball glass or mug. Add Pimm’s, ginger ale, and club soda. Stir and garnish with cucumber. Serve.

This was refreshing, but it was also quite sweet. The Pimm’s was overpowered by the sugar in the ginger ale. If choosing this recipe, I would suggest to use club soda instead of the lemon lime soda, or to adjust the ratio of the ginger ale to club soda equally. It could also be enhanced with a greater assortment of fruits.

Pimm’s Cup, Runner Up #1
Adapted from NPR

2 oz. Pimm’s No. 1
4 oz. lemonade
Club soda
Sliced English cucumber
Optional: lemon slices

Fill a Collins glass with ice. Mix Pimm’s with lemonade and stir or shake. Top off with club soda and stir lightly. Garnish with cucumber and lemon wedge (if using).

We both thought that this cocktail was missing the kick from the ginger compared to the previous cocktail. It wasn’t bad, but it definitely was flat in comparison.

And now for the winner!

Pimm’s Cup, Grand Prize Winner
Adapted from Chow.com

1/4 oz. simple syrup
1/2 tsp. peeled, freshly grated ginger
4 to 5 mint leaves
1 lemon wedge
1 oz. dry gin
1 oz. Pimm’s No. 1
1 English cucumber, sliced lengthwise and then diced
1 1/2 to 2 oz. combination of ginger ale and soda water
Optional: Add diced strawberries, orange, apples, and/or lemon

Place simple syrup, ginger, mint, and lemon in a cocktail shaker and muddle gently. Add gin and Pimm’s and stir to combine. Do not shake. Fill a Collins glass halfway with ice. Add cucumber (and fruit, if using. Strain the contents of the cocktail shaker into the glass and top with ginger ale and/or soda water. Stir gently and add additional ice cubes to fill.

This was the clear winner. There was a pleasant complexity with this cocktail. We thought the inclusion of the gin complimented the Pimm’s, without masking the liqueur’s unique flavor. Also, the fresh ginger was a nice addition to the ginger ale.

Although it’s now September, I hope that there are still some warm days ahead to enjoy Pimm’s Cups. Cheers!

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Karen’s “The Best Damn Bloody Mary Ever”

I have been known to be skeptical of bloody marys–or at least I was until I tried Karen’s. Usually, I think they taste like cold, boozy soup–which is fine if you need lunch, but not a stiff drink. Karen changed all that. She served her version on New Year’s Day to a group of hungover friends, and it was a revelation. Perfectly balanced, both citrusy and spicy, and chock full of my favorite thing–cilantro. Since then, I am a complete convert.

THE BEST DAMN BLOODY MARY EVER
recipe by Karen Ruppanner

Start with a pint glass and fill it with ice. Add a spoonful of horseradish. (I like a lot.) Then add a few shakes of celery salt, plenty of tobasco, and a generous amount worcestershire sauce. Add fresh ground pepper and a squeeze of a fresh lime or lemon wedge. Now for the important ingredients. Add finely chopped fresh cilantro and diced cucumber. (Be sure the pieces are tiny!) After all of the spices and veggies have been added, fill the glass half-full with vodka, or to your liking. Fill the remaining half with tomato juice (not Bloody Mary mix!). Stir and taste. You may need to add more tobasco, worcestershire sauce, horseradish, and lime juice…..I usually do at this point. Garnish with a celery stalk, a peppercini, a lime wedge, a lemon wheel, a cucumber wheel, and of course a blue cheese stuffed olive. Yum! I promise you will have THE BEST DAMN BLOODY MARY EVER!

A picture of the gorgeous bloody-mary genius!