Pimm’s Cup 3 Ways: Sparkling, Updated & Classic Recipes

The refreshing Pimm's Royale at Bubble Lounge in San Francisco features the British cocktail mixer Pimm's No. 1 and champagne.

I’ve been ignoring all the back-to-school sales and mentally trying to turn this into an endless summer. Sadly, the weather is making it quite apparent that autumn is on its way.

But I’ve been savoring some flavors of summer this month. While I never made it to a tennis or polo match this summer, I did indulge in the classic English summer drink at The Bubble Lounge SF: The Pimm’s Cup.

The Pimm’s Cup cocktail has a rather convoluted history – even for the drinking world – where so many tales are fuzzy because the people telling them are slightly fuzzy-headed.

We do know it was created in 1823 by a man named James Pimm who ran the popular Oyster Bar in London, according to the official site, fetchingly named Anyone For Pimms. The custom was slurping oysters and slugging back London dry gin, which was a bracing 90-proof spirit that didn’t necessarily enhance the flavors of the bivalve.

Mr. Pimm created a cocktail called Pimm’s Cup No. 1 that diluted the gin with citrus fruits, aromatic spices and water, making it a much more food-friendly tipple. Plus, I imagine he was happy his patrons weren’t getting smashed quite so quickly. His Pimm’s Cup No. 1 became fashionable, and Pimm created a few more versions of his drink with brandy and Scotch and rum, that were later bottled for sale.

Only the gin-based Pimm’s No. 1 endures and it’s featured in eponymous cocktails that might also be mixed with lemonade, ginger ale, ginger beer and an ambrosial selection of fruits including strawberry, lemon, lime, apples and cucumber (yes, cucumber is a fruit.)

This season, Bubble Lounge San Francisco in Jackson Square is featuring the Pimm’s Cup No. 1 a couple different ways. Their signature is the Pimm’s Royale, that’s livened up by champagne. They were kind enough to share the recipe:

Pimm’s Royale

1-1/2 ounces Pimm’s No. 1
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 ounce ginger ale
6 inch ribbon of cucumber, for garnish
2 to 3 ounces champagne
slice fresh strawberry, for garnish
sprig of fresh mint, for garnish

In a tall Collins style glass, add the Pimm’s, lime juice and ginger ale and stir. Slide the cucumber down the side of the glass, then fill the glass 3/4 with ice. Top with the champagne, then garnish with the strawberry slice and the mint.
Makes 1 cocktail

Eileen's Pimm's Cup with ginger beer and additional gin, is a more potent version of the original Pimm's Cup No. 1.

As I was enjoying the Pimm’s Royale, Eileen, a Bubble Lounge bartenders, suggested I try her updated version of the classic Pimm’s Cup.

Eileen’s Pimm’s Cup

3/4 ounce simple syrup
3-inch slice cucumber
2 sprigs of fresh mint
1 ounce Pimm’s No. 1
1 ounce gin
1 ounce lemon juice
1 ounce ginger beer

In a sturdy rocks glass, muddle the simple syrup, cucumber and 1 sprig mint until fragrant. Add the Pimm’s, gin and lemon juice and stir. Fill the glass with ice, stir again then top with the ginger beer. Garnish with the remaining mint.
Makes 1 cocktail

For the classic recipe , listen in to National Public Radio’s Michele Norris doing a fun interview on Pimm’s Cup history with the catering direcot at Wimbledon, where Pimm’s No. 1 is the unofficial beverage.

The Blacker the Berry,
the Sweeter the Cocktail

Fresh blackberries star in the Berry Bramble, an icy cocktail perfect for summer entertaining.

Anyone with relatives from the South eventually learns the phrase : “The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.”

My mom taught it to me as a tip for selecting the sweetest, ripe fruit, and it’s pretty much true with produce like cherries, plums and blackberries. Of course, when I got a little older, I learned it was a double entendre. And last week, I discovered chef Heather Jones’ blog on African Americans in the culinary world called  The Blacker the Berry Food.

I’ve enjoying lots of delicious blackberry cocktails lately. We sipped a delicious blackberry cocktail called the Blackberry Cobbler at the retro restaurant Flora. They wouldn’t divulge the recipe, but it stars a house-made blackberry syrup that’s shaken up with Martin Miller’s Gin, pineapple juice, orange liqueur, lemon and poured over a tall glass of crushed ice.

When these freshly picked Sonoma blackberries got soft, I juiced them and boiled the juice with 1-1/2 cups sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan to make blackberry syrup.


And at Redd in Yountville, the entertaining bartender named Mason wowed us with his Samurai, a piquant and fruity martini that mixes blackberries with yuzu citrus.

6 whole berries or 2 tablespoons blackberry puree
1/2 ounce yuzu juice
2 ounces Charbay green tea vodka
1/2 tablespoon lime juice
1 to 2 ounces ginger beer

Add 5 blackberries to a cocktail mixing glass and muddle to a pulp or start with 2 tablespoons blackberry puree. Add the yuzu juice, vodka and lime juice; then  fill the shaker with ice. Shake until well-chilled then double-strain into a martini glass. Top with the ginger beer. Garnish with the remaining blackberry.
Makes 1 cocktail

But my favorite blackberry cocktail recipe in recent memory is the Berry Bramble, which  Chase Osthimer and Erick Castro made by the hundreds during SF Chefs. This one was created in the 1980s by London bartender Dick Bradsell who’s credited with modernizing bar culture in the UK. Osthimer says  the Bramble was the UK version of the Cosmopolitan. Here’s a video of the man making his famous drink:


I laughed when I heard the name. I thought I was so clever when created a blackberry and champagne recipe for my book The Bubbly Bar and dubbed it the Bramble. I quickly added “Bubbling Blackberry” to the name when my research turned up Bradsell’s famous recipe.

The Berry Bramble

4 each fresh blackberries, blueberries and raspberries
1 tablespoon simple syrup
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 ounces gin, such as Plymouth
1 tablespoon berry liqueur like creme de mure or Framboise

Add 9 (3 each) fresh berries to a sturdy rocks cocktail glass and muddle them to a pulp. Add the simple syrup, lemon juice and gin. Pack the glass with crushed or shaved ice, mounding it up a bit. Drizzle the berry liqueur over the top. Garnish with the remaining three berries.

Makes 1 cocktail




Sparkling Moscato from Moldova – Who Knew?


Exclusiv Moscato is a tasty and affordable new sparkling wine from Moldova in Eastern Europe. While part of the former Soviet Union, Moldova made a third of all the sparkling wine and half of all still wine consumed in Russia.

Sunday afternoon brought a wine tasting party with the lovely ladies and a couple gentlemen from Cuisine Noir Mag.com to celebrate the launch of the first print issue in September. As our publisher Sheree Williams finished some last minute cooking, I made tasting sheets for the guests to write down their comments.

I shouldn’t have been surprised – but I was – to come across a pretty pink bottle of Moscato from Moldova. The aromatic Moscato grape is most famously made into aromatic, fruity, sweet-tart wines in Italy, but it gets around. It’s not unusual to see Moscatos from all over the world such as the organic Makulu Moscato from South Africa and the memorable Two Hands Brilliant Disguise Moscato from Australia.

And if you like your moscato to be refreshingly fruity, then you’ll enjoy the Exclusiv Rosé Moscato which was  just released in the U.S. in June. It’s bursting with peach and berry aromas and flavors, but the sweetness is balanced by enough acid to make you want to take another sip.

According to the Moldova Wine Guild’s website, wine has been produced in Moldova – a boot shaped country between Romania and Ukraine – for more than 4,000 years. The Greeks and Romans helped the Moldovan wine industry along, but things really took off in the 15th century. That’s when the ruler Stefan the Great established a government position of chief wine steward or cupbearer (paharnic in Moldovan) whose job it was to make sure the vines were flourishing and winemakers were keeping quality up.

Moldova experienced a Prohibition in the 16th century when the Ottomans took over and forbade wine-making. The industry bounced back when Moldova became part of the Russian empire. Affluent Russians established winemaking estates growing native varietals like Rara Neagră and Feteasca Albă, a white grape. Later, French experts brought in many noble grape varieties like merlot, cabernet sauvignon and aligoté. By 1837, Moldova produced 1.1 million cases of wine a year.

Moldova’s wine industry had other setbacks in a phylloxera outbreak, both world wars and the Gorbachev era when many vineyards were ripped out. But each time, the industry has rebounded and now they’re producing a range of dry and sweet wines that use indigenous and international grape varietals.

And judging from the quality of the Exclusiv Moscato, Moldova will be sending plenty of well-made and affordable wines our way.