It’s been a blustery spring in San Francisco so far, and in the last month I’ve attended several outdoor barbecues where we were all wrapped in our fleece jackets and hunkered down against the cold.
Today, however, I was invited to backyard barbecue to celebrate my friend Ron’s birthday, and the forecast promised a warm, sunny day. Of course I wanted to take a cocktail to share, but I had to abandon many of my favorites, since this event started at 11 a.m., and, let’s face it, no one can start drinking Sazeracs at that hour and hope to still have their wits about them by the time the beef comes off the barbecue.
One of my favorite summertime drinks, perfect for long, leisurely picnics and barbecues, is the Pimm’s Cup. I was introduced to Pimm’s about a dozen years ago when an Anglophile friend insisted we take a field trip to watch a local cricket game. In addition to learning that cricket is pretty much impenetrable unless you’re a subject of the British Empire, I also learned that Pimm’s Cup is the traditional drink of cricket games, as well as Wimbledon and the Henley Royal Regatta. Perfect for daylong sipping in the sun, it’s a refreshing, and not too alcoholic, drink that usually consists of Pimm’s No. 1 (a 50-proof gin-based drink that’s spiked with quinine, herbs, and citrus); ginger ale, ginger beer, or lemonade; cucumber; mint, and citrus fruits like lemons and oranges. Strawberries are another common addition. It’s a loosey-goosey affair, and no one seems to get too upset about following precise portions or changing up the ingredients a bit.
I’ve been on a cherry kick all week—glistening Bing cherries are cheap and plentiful at all the markets around town—so I wondered how cherries might spruce up the drink. After a small amount of fiddling, I came up with the following recipe.
Cherry Pimm’s Cup
1 oz cherry puree (see below)
2 slices cucumber, plus 2 long cucumber spears, for garnish
1 slice lemon
2 sprigs fresh mint
2 oz Pimm’s No. 1
2 oz Cock and Bull ginger beer
1 fresh cherry
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the cherry puree, the cucumber slices, the lemon slice, and 1 of the mint sprigs. Add the Pimm’s to the shaker, fill with ice, and stir well. Strain into a highball filled with fresh ice and add the ginger beer. Stir gently. Garnish the drink with the cucumber spears, the remaining mint sprig, and a fresh cherry.
In a food processor, puree 1/2 pound fresh pitted cherries and the juice of 1 lemon until smooth. Voila!
Overall, the drink has a fairly subtle cherry flavor, but I like the little hint of fruitiness combined with the herbaceousness of the Pimm’s. And, like the usual Pimm’s cup, you don’t have to be doctrinaire about following the recipe. When I was making these at the party I ran out of cucumber so I started garnishing it with orange slices. And when I ran out of cherry puree I just muddled a few fresh pitted cherries and squeeze of lime juice. Easy as pie. Cherry pie, that is.