Pimm’s Cup, iconic cocktail of New Orleans

Brian Rung

    New Orleans is the birthplace of many iconic cocktails. The long list includes “the big three” New Orleans drinks: The Hurricane, Ramos Gin Fizz and The Sazerac.
    Surely you wouldn't leave the crescent city until you have had at least one of each, but don't forget to swing by Napoleon House for the unsung hero of New Orleans cocktails, the iconic Pimm's Cup.
    You simply haven't been to New Orleans if you haven't had a Pimm's Cup at Napoleon House. Most often consumed during the day, the Pimm's Cup is by no means a heavy drink when compared to the Hurricane and the Sazerac.
    The Pimm's Cup is all about adding refreshment to your afternoon as you take in the ambiance of the French Quarter from your seat at Napoleon House.
    So, Napoleon had a house in New Orleans? No, Napoleon never actually lived at Napoleon house, but according to local legend that was the plan.
    In 1821 former mayor Nicholas Girod helped underwrite a scheme to bring the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte to the Crescent City following a daring rescue and escape from St. Helena.
    Girod even offered up his place at 500 Chartres to house Bonaparte upon his arrival.  Unfortunately it was not to be. Word of Napoleon's death reached New Orleans before the plan could be set in motion.
    The classic version of the Pimm's Cup was invented in London, but found new life in the United States in the 1940s when the drink was added to the menu at Napoleon House.
    Pimm's is a European liqueur and was essentially the world's first pre-made cocktail.  Officially categorized as a “sling” or “fruit cup”, the Pimm's lineup features various spirits mixed with fruit juice, herbs, botanicals, etc.  
    The Pimm's Cup is technically a gin-based cocktail since the Pimm's No. 1 variety uses gin as a base spirit. Be sure to double check the label when buying a bottle of Pimm's as the labels for their various offerings all look similar. At one time there were a total of six different fruit cups in the Pimm's lineup utilizing popular base spirits such as rum, Scotch, brandy, rye and vodka.  
    The gin-based Pimm's No. 1 is the most popular and the most widely available. Several of the other spirits in the Pimm's lineup have been discontinued with the No. 3 cup reintroduced as Pimm's Winter Cup.
    The vodka-based Pimm's No. 6 was second in popularity to the No. 1 and has been reintroduced as Pimm's Blackberry and Elderflower.
    The Pimm's line of liqueur is most popular in Southern England and is a staple drink at the Wimbledon tennis tournament.
    It is not uncommon to find the Pimm's Cup served with multiple garnishes of fruit including apples, oranges, lemons, limes and so on. In parts of the Southeastern United States the Pimm's Cup is made by the pitcher and resembles a Sangria-style fruit punch with large slices of fruit added to the pitcher.
    The flavor notes of Pimm's work with just about any fruit, but less is more at Napoleon House where the only garnish used is a slice of cucumber.
    Do right by yourself and Napoleon and only use the freshest, sweetest, scratch-made lemonade in the Pimm's Cup. Lemonade is three things, and three things only: lemon, water and sugar.
    To make fresh lemonade, dissolve 3 tablespoons of sugar into the juice from one lemon, or approximately 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. Add one cup of cold water once the sugar has dissolved. This recipe will yield three Pimm's Cup cocktails.
    The Pimm's Cup is easy to build, starting with a tall glass of ice. Add Pimm's No. 1, then add lemonade leaving enough room to top your drink with a splash of lemon/lime soda.  
    There are several lemon/lime sodas that can be used to top your Pimm's Cup. I lean toward 7Up in this and any other cocktail calling for a lemon/lime soda.
    Sprite and Fever Tree Soda have an ideal balance of lemon/lime flavor but lack the “fizz” of 7Up. The purpose of topping with soda is to add a bit of fizz, and in this case 7Up is the clear winner.
    The New Orleans version of the Pimm's Cup is built and served in a tall 12 oz glass.
    Fill glass with ice.
    Add 1 1/4 oz. Pimm's No. 1.
    Add 3 oz. fresh lemonade.
    Top with 7Up.
    Stir gently, garnish with slice of cucumber.
    In addition to their legendary cocktail service, Napoleon House is home to perhaps the best Muffuletta in New Orleans. Napoleon House is located at 500 Chartres St. in the heart of the French Quarter. Doors open daily at 11 am.  
    Until next week, enjoy responsibly.