Winter may be fast approaching (today I am wearing a scarf in honour of this; still no coat though, I keep that until the temperature really starts to drop) but Saturday saw us comfortably installed in an upper room at the Leeds Living Room enjoying a Pimms tasting of all things.
I mention the seasons because for me, as for many other people I suspect, Pimms is the quintessential summer drink. Take the summer of 2000; I was in my third term of university, the object of study was the Bard himself, the sun seemed to shine every day and my college boasted the oldest bowling green in Europe. What else can you expect a load of English students to do but lie out on the grass, propped up copies of The Riverside Shakespeare and sup Pimms all day long – sometimes with a shot of gin to turbo it, and us, up a bit. Happy, happy days.
The prospect of a Pimms tasting session was, therefore, too good to resist, chill winds and autumn leaves notwithstanding. And what a session it was! I would say that it left me with a new found respect for the beloved liqueur – but it is perhaps more accurate to say it left me feeling slightly queasy on the way round IKEA the next morning. This was NOT one of those tastings where you feel short changed. The first drink was poured within five minutes and it didn’t really stop flowing for the next hour and a half.
Pimms was originally created back in the mid nineteenth century as a more palatable alternative to gin. Although gin based, it also contained ingredients such as borage and citrus – the exact recipe remains a closely guarded secret to this day. This gin based fruit cup is the Pimms no 1 which is still produced. Over the years five more variants were created, each based upon a different spirit. Most are no longer easily obtainable, although Pimms no 3, which is the brandy version, has been rebranded as Winter Pimms and occasionally surfaces at Christmas.
And so we drank. We drank Pimms with gin, lemonade and coriander – an unusual herb but one designed to pick up on a particular botanical of the gin. We drank a Pimms whisky sour both with and without ginger beer (absolutely delicious – destined to become my Christmas cocktail of choice). We drank Pimms with spiced rum, fresh ginger, lime and mint. And we finished with a Pimms Royale – Pimms with orange vodka, strawberry and basil mixed with a combination of ginger ale and lemonade. In between, we had tots of the individual spirits (so we could taste them in isolation you understand – purely scientific) and sampled a supermarket own brand fruit cup (verdict: lacking the depth and complexity of the original but perfectly serviceable when mixed with lemonade and fruit and one third of the price). There was cake as well.
All in all, a delightful way to spend a Saturday afternoon. The website for the Drinks Workshop, which offers classes in a variety of different spirits can be found here although I am not sure what locations are on offer outside of Leeds. Still, if you fancy coming to up here and spending a few hours getting tipsily educated and eating cake, this is highly recommended.