Recreating the Long Lost Pimm’s Cups – Scotch, Rum, Rye & Tequila.

To mark our Second birthday on Wednesday July 4th 2012 I shall be revealing details of Cups No: 8, 9, 10 and 11.

With a name like Summer Fruit Cup, it seems fitting that, on the site’s first birthday, we should be writing about this summer cooler. We have previously looked at garnishes, the different varieties available and even making your own, but, for many, Fruit Cup is synonymous with Pimm’s Cup.

The variety that is most popular today is the No.1 Cup, which is gin-based, but between 1851 and 1970 five additional varieties of Pimm’s were available, each with a different base alcohol.

No.1 – Gin
No.2 – Scotch Whisky
No.3 – Brandy
No.4 – Rum
No.5 – Rye Whiskey
No.6 – Vodka

L:R Gin, Scotch, Brandy, Rum, Rye Whisky, Vodka, Tequila

But with exception of No.6 (and a reformulated brandy version), these cups haven’t been available since 1970; some vintage bottles sell for upwards of £100. After some encouraging feedback on my Lemon & Orange Gin recreations from Erik & Brad, I decided to try my hand at making some recreations of these long lost cups, as a tribute to Pimm’s and the varieties that were once made.

I’ve had some experience making home-made fruit cup and so, armed with some vintage samples and following conversations with the Master Distiller of Plymouth Gin, I set to work.
My research had shown that Pimm’s (pre-1970) was 60 proof (31.53% ABV) this reduced to 55 proof (28.90% ABV) and, today, is only 25% ABV. I aimed to make my cups at 60 proof.

Once the cups had been created, using various herbs, spices and citrus fruits, they were ready to taste. I decided to try each fruit cup with standard lemonade (lemon-soda – R White’s is our favourite) and ginger ale. It is worth noting that, as the No.1 and No.6 cups are in their original formula, these were excluded from the tasting notes.*

No.2 – Scotch

This cup was unusual in the sense that I have actually tried the Original No.2 Pimm’s Cup and so could perform a comparative tasting and tweak the recipe accordingly. I used a blended scotch, White and Mackay, as my base; I thought that this was a pretty standard scotch (and I happened to have a bottle). If you used an Islay that was very peaty, for example, the result would be very different and the recipe would need to tweaked for sure.

Lemonade
Of all the fruit cups that we tried, this was the most similar to the No.1 Gin Cup; it had a very similar consistency and mouthfeel. The whisky certainly came through: woody and oaky, with a touch of smoke. There were some fruit and ginger notes and quite a long finish. It had a slight, sweet viscosity, but this didn’t upset the drink balance.

When fruit was added, it opened up the flavour a bit and made it more refreshing. Overall, this was a little warmer than the No.1 and may work well served hot.

Ginger Ale
Sweeter than the lemonade version, and the flavours of scotch are more subtle. With ice and fruit it was very refreshing but, for us, just a bit too sweet.

No.3 – Brandy

The jury is till out on whether or not Pimm’s Winter is the same as, or just similar to, the original Pimms No.3 Brandy Cup. The modern bottle does state that it now has added orange zest and spice, but, as almost all fruit cups are blended with spices and citrus, I’m not sure that means much. If I find out, I will let you know.

Lemonade
When mixed with lemonade, the brandy cup had flavours of dark sugar, brandy and sugar/brandy snaps, along with warmth from the brandy. The flavour of the spirit come through more than the others, and was somewhat reminiscent of fruit cake. The flavours seemed quite rounded and there was a long finish. It improved when the garnish was added.

Ginger Ale
Notes of brandy at the beginning were followed by some vanilla and ginger, making this combination rather wintery. This is less complex than the same cup mixed with lemonade and so is a little bit easier to drink.

No:4 – Rum

I also have a sample of the original Pimm’s No.4 Rum cup and it is evident that it is made using dark rum. Given my fondness for the “English-style” of rums – Lamb’s, Skipper and Goslings – that is the style of rum that I used. Like scotch, the type of rum you use would make a lot of difference to your resultant fruit cup.

Lemonade
Packed with flavour, the rum came through well. There was also a little sherbet, molasses, spice and citrus; it was rich and complex, and had a very long finish. We thought that this worked well with lots of ice, but maybe an alternative garnish needs to be found, as we prefered this version without one.

Ginger Ale
Dark sugar comes through again, along with a more bitter-herbal twang. Intense, complex and rather delicious, this had a flavour of a similar intensity to the lemonade, but the finish was much shorter.

All in all, we both preferred the rum cup with lemonade (just).

No.5 – Rye

Before being introduced in the UK, this was sold in Canada and, for that reason, it seemed logical to use Canadian Rye in the recreation.

Lemonade
Mrs B. found this fruity, refreshing and easy to drink. There was a sweetness of some sort of old-fashioned boiled sweet (but she couldn’t quite put her finger on which) and it had a long, growing flavour, like Pimm’s No.1.
Although I liked it and agreed that it was light and refreshing, moving towards the style of the old Stone’s Fruit Cup, after the full flavours of the others, this one, for me, was a little disappointing.

Ginger Ale
A bit syrupy with sweet ginger notes, but still quite nice. I preferred this to the lemonade, as it seemed to have more flavour, but it was still quite light, in a similar way to the No.6 Vodka Cup.

No.6 – Vodka

As this variety still exists, there was no recreation.

No.7 – Tequila

As with most of the fruit cups, a decision had to made about the base spirit for tequila: Blanco vs. Gold? I opted for Blanco, as I thought it would make a lighter product.

Lemonade
This had a strong nose of tequila, with lime and a little vanilla. We both found this somewhat of a departure from the usual Pimm’s flavours, but, regardless of this, a common thread still seemed to run between them all; this was certainly still a fruit cup.
The tequila flavour is prevalent, but not over-powering and this is very refreshing drink, with both sweet and savoury notes. We found that it improved with a fruit garnish, which took off any harsh edge that the alcohol had had. Unusual, but lovely.

Ginger Ale
Sweet ginger notes, akin to gingerbread. Tequila still prominent along with some citrus fruits. Full of flavour and a close contender to the lemonade version but it is the lemonade that just has the edge.

Unlike with lemonade, with ginger ale, we found that the fruit garnish (cucumber, at least) detracted from the drink a bit. Still, a pretty nice cooler.

In Conclusion

We were delighted at how well the different spirits worked and it’s certainly a shame that they were discontinued, but, with the resurgence of Fruit Cups (I know of two well-known gin distillers that have just created Fruit Cups; one for general sale and the other as an exclusive to a bar chain), maybe we’ll see some more experimentation.

My favourites were the Rum & the Tequila Cups.
Mrs B’s were the Rye & the Scotch.

The Future

I have some plans to look at other fruit cups in the future and I have already made a sample of a “No.8” cup; watch this space…

*For more details on these click here and here respectively.

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Vodka Pimm’s – The Mystery of Pimm’s No.6 Vodka Cup



Frequent visitors to the site may have guessed that we’re both rather fond of Fruit Cup (Pimm’s and the like); rather fitting, given the site’s name. But one fruit cup that is often over-looked is one that is vodka, rather than gin, based*; I am, of course, talking about Pimm’s (No.6) Vodka Cup. This was the sixth variety of Pimm’s to be introduced; for those who may not be familiar with the varieties, here is a quick rundown of all those that have, at some point, been available:

No.1 – Gin (1840 – Present)
No.2 – Scotch Whisky (1851 – 1970)
No.3 – Brandy (1851 – 1970)
No.3 – As a variant of the original with added spices (2005 – Present)
No.4 – Rum (1935 – 1970)
No.5 – Rye Whiskey (1964 – 1970)
No.6 – Vodka (1964 – 1970, then 1970 – Present)

The No.6 Cup was added to the line-up in the UK at the same time as No.5 (Rye); the latter had previously has a successful launch in Canada. This was a time when international business was booming and Pimm’s wanted to tap into the American Whisky and Vodka market.

When the business was sold in to Distilling Company Ltd.** in 1969, some pretty serious “rationalisation” took place and all but the most popular No.1 Cup were discontinued. No.6 is interesting in that it was a favourite of the wife of the chairman of the new company and so she persuaded him to restart production, albeit in very limited quantities. As such, the production of No.6 only stopped for a few months at the most.

Originally, Pimm’s No.6 was known simply as a “Vodka Sling”, just as No.1 was known as a “Gin Sling”. However, today, it is described (on the label) as a “Vodka Cup” and any allusion to its numerical designation has been renegated to the back of the label.

Like the other cups, the Original Pimm’s No.6 bottle suggested a garnish of lemon and borage or cucumber, whereas today it recommends lemon, orange, apple, cucumber and mint.

The Taste

The flavour of No.6 is less intense than the gin-based No.1, and not just because vodka is typically smoother and less flavorsome than gin, but also because the mix of herbs and citrus seems lighter in this version. I’d say it was a little sweeter and a touch syrupy, even when diluted 3:1 with lemonade.

When choosing a lemonade, I would steer away from anything too sweet; perhaps Fevertree Lemonade, which tends to be a bit sharper, would be a good choice. Despite these differences though Pimm’s No.6 Vodka Cup is still exceptionally refreshing and rather moreish.

*I did once come across another Vodka-based Fruit Cup.

** Distillers Company was then purchased by Guinness in 1986 and merged with another of their subsidiaries (Arthur Bell & Sons) to create United Distilling. in 1997 Guinness merged with Great Metropolitan to form Diageo the Pimm’s Brand came as well. Thus the brand is now owned by Diageo.

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