In the mix

Philip Salter
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City A.M.’s cocktail expert

THE human memory is a remarkable thing, and like most remarkable things it’s not entirely faithful: our memory banks’ chief currency is lies. So, as we emerge in fits and starts from our winter of discontent, can we really be sure that the British summer – that is, tolerable weather for more than a weekend – is anything other than a false memory?

But fear not, sun worshippers, we have absolute proof (well, 25 per cent ABV) that Britain does indeed have summers – it goes by the name of Pimm’s. The two are mutually inclusive: without a British summer, Pimm’s could not exist, and without Pimm’s there would, quite possibly, be no British summer.

James Tee Pimm created this gin-based concoction in the early nineteenth century; marketed as an aid to digestion, it was first sold out of an oyster bar on Poultry, in the heart of the City. The Pimm’s Cup – the cocktail most people associate with the word Pimm’s – is the simplest of things to make: two shots of Pimm’s (No. 1 Cup), a slice of orange, a slice of lemon, a slice of cucumber and a strawberry, topped up with lemonade; it is served over ice in a Collins glass and garnished with a sprig of mint.
You will be lucky to get the full litany of fruits in your average pub, but it is the one cocktail even a shoddy bartender would struggle to mess up. Following the advice of Jay Hepburn – the author of the no longer updated, but nevertheless vital, online cocktail resource Oh Gosh! – I soak the fruit and cucumber in the Pimm’s in the refrigerator for a few hours prior to mixing it with the lemonade.

But don’t let anyone tell you how to make it. The Pimm’s Cup is a cocktail worth experimenting with to see what you like (I tend to omit the strawberries), which could, and should, take you beyond the Pimm’s to similar drinks. If you would prefer someone else to do the experimenting for you, head for the sanctuary of Churchill Bar & Terrace in the Hyatt Regency London for a Portman Summer Cup. A striking statue of Sir Winston Churchill sits on the bar’s terrace: an appropriate drinking companion for the Portman Summer Cup. Although Churchill famously partook of whisky from just after breakfast and sipped it throughout the day thereafter, Sir David Hunt (and other private secretaries have corroborated this) claimed that: “He certainly drank the weakest whisky-and-soda that I have ever known.” As with the Pimm’s Cup, the Portman Summer Cup takes the edge off the day without turning you into a drunken bore (at least not initially).

Thankfully, the Hyatt’s terrace is covered, in case you fancy a tête-à-tête during London’s pouring rain. One swallow might not make a summer, but a bottle of Pimm’s or a siphon of the Portman Summer Cup just might.

The Portman Summer Cup

For a litre and 80ml siphon serve
150ml Hendricks Gin
200ml Antica Formula Vermouth
20 dashes Angostura Bitters
30 dashes Orange Bitters

House lemonade (to mix)
360ml Water
150ml Fresh Lemon Juice
210 ml Sugar Syrup