It’s 45 goddam degrees as I write this—morning but it’s only supposed to go up 6 more degrees by midday, and I am so tired of this cold gloomy weather I’ve decided to offer one of the great warm-weather libations, the Pimm’s Cup. It was downright hot last week, and the lilacs and dogwood are in bloom, so I make today’s Friday cocktail a harbinger of the warm weather to come. And for those of you who live where’s it’s already hot.

Also, I now have a new fave of all Donna’s cocktail shots. Nice lighting on that pour, hon! (Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.)

My first encounter with Pimm’s Cup came once again from my dear old pal Blake. It was even before we were living together, when he was holed up trying to write fiction in a grim little studio in the Washington Hotel at 23rd and Lex.

My mom had come to visit and I wanted to introduce her to my new literary-minded pal. We waited forty-five minutes at Indochine on Lafayette (a restaurant I still enjoy). Blake arrived, red-eyed and rumpled and gushing apologies. (He had already been drinking all day, and fallen asleep, he explained later.)

The waiter arrived, Blake paused, then ordered definitively, “I’ll have a Pimm’s Cup,” and he gave a light thump with his fist. To me this sounded like a girlie drink, especially for a guy who didn’t hesitate throw a punch (which he would in fact do, on my behalf, at a bar later that spring, much to my astonishment). In retrospect, his choice of cocktail made sense. A Pimm’s Cup is lighter on the alcohol, more of which Blake hardly needed that evening. As I’ve mentioned, neither of us were our best selves in those days.

The Pimm’s Cup arrived, and this is the only other part of the conversation that I remember, and it is why the drink always comes with tinge of embarrassment. My mother inquired about a new girl I’d started seeing, and Blake squinted, trying to recall. He said, “Sally, Sally? Oh, right, a bit vacuous but great in the sack, isn’t that what you said, Mike?”

I hung my head and rubbed my brow, averting eyes from my decorous mom, who didn’t know who to glare at first.

The evening descended from there. And that is my Pimm’s Cup story.

But new decades dawned, Blake became a highly respected award-winning author, I still have a wonderful and generous mother, and I look forward the warm weather and this effervescent light cocktail.

Pimm’s is a fifty-proof liqueur with an old history, and I’m glad it remains. It’s often served with lemonade. I prefer a high-quality ginger ale, a good squeeze of lemon juice to counter the sweetness, and more for garnish along with cucumber (a surprisingly fine and intriguing element in this beautifully refreshing cocktail, which should be mixed to taste). I like it lighter on the ginger, but it’s up to you.

Happy Friday!

Pimm’s Cup

  • 3 ounces Pimm’s No. 1
  • 4 to 6 ounces ginger ale
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon wheel, for garnish
  • Cucumber, for garnish
  1. Fill a glass with ice. Add Pimm’s, and top with ginger ale and a squeeze of lemon. Stir.
  2. Garnish with cucumber slice and lemon wheel and serve.


If you liked this post on the Pimm’s Cup, check out these other links:

© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.



20 Wonderful responses to “Friday Cocktail Hour:
The Pimm’s Cup”

  • Paul minnillo

    Come on this is Cleveland —41 degrees is very normal –even after May 15!!!

  • Chris

    Wonderful drink. I prefer to use San Pellegrino Limonata in my Pimm’s Cup.

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  • James O.

    Is there a traditional glass or other barware used for the “Pimm’s cup”?

    • Chris

      A silver chalice? Wait a minute, I’m thinking of a pimp cup. Never mind.

  • jennyjenn

    might I suggest that ginger beer is a wonderful addition to a pimms cup instead of ginger ale. Also a simple citrus syrup is the bomb as well . . .

  • Carolyn Z

    Thank you for sharing the hilarious story. Looks like you found a keeper in Donna! You seem to need a smart spouse.

  • Derf82

    Pimms is a truly wonderful cocktail for the spring and summer. Mint and orange make wonderful additions as well. Don’t doubt the cucumber, people, it’s a wonderful pairing. I’m partial to lemonade, myself, particularly the European fizzy kind, though your ginger ale is also excellent. Lemon-lime soda also is an effective mixer.

  • Jennifer

    The photograph is spectacular. Now I’ll read the blog entry…

  • Dean

    Pimm’s Cup is a favorite warm weather cocktail. As noted, if you use ginger ale, make sure it’s a good quality one with real ginger taste – personal favorite it Fever Tree.

    On a hot day, just before getting up to prepare dinner, a Pimm’s Cup is perfect. Thanks for helping me think about the upcoming season.

  • Allen

    I am great full for our sunshine, warm Northwest weather – and, that your photographer is Donna, and not vacuous “Sally”.

    I don’t think she would have come up with a cucumber lemon garnish, if vacuous is an accurate description.

  • The Captain

    While sparkling stuff can vary ( ginger beer, sprite, traditional english lemonade), never, under any circumstances omit the cucumber.

  • Raficoso

    I first encountered Pimm’s while tending bar years ago. I like it with soda in a tall glass with some sunshine and cucumber.

  • Joe

    Pimm’s cup is not made with ginger brew. There are enough rooty extractions in the Pimm’s to make up for that. It is usually made with a kind of sparkling lemonade (almost like a more lemony version of Sprite.) You should also have strawberries in addition to the cucumber and an orange and/or lemon slice. The fruit should mix into the concoction kind of like a sangria. Nothing says an English winter is over and spring has sprung like a Pimm’s cup.

  • Mark

    Attractive cocktail
    Enjoy cocktail or juice on the summer is great
    I will try to do this cocktail on a weekend

  • Dave

    This was terrific. Made me want to read more about Pimm’s. Found several DIY recipes. Have you ever experimented with those? Gin, excellent vermouth, sherry or port, homemade bitters …. ?

  • Scott

    How about making your own Ginger Ale? Ever try to? Alton Brown has a great recipe, very easy, and the taste is better than anything you buy. The only downside is the couple of days it takes to ferment.

  • Karen McQueen

    I have a unique Pimms story as well…happened while living in England attending culinary school in London. To this day it’s still one of my favorite summer drinks and holds sweet memories. Everyone I have introduced the drink to loves it.


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