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 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.