Shaken & Stirred History and Mystery: The Bartender Smiles
Shaken & Stirred
History and Mystery: The Bartender Smiles
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By JONATHAN MILES
Published: June 19, 2009
MY bartender looked pleased. It was a late afternoon last week, in Charleston, S.C., where I’d been wandering downtown on King Street in a sunlit daze and working up a formidable thirst.
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Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times
MORE GARNISH The Zin Cup at Nios, looking gorgeous.
Zin Cup (June 21, 2009)
“Let’s do a Pimm’s Cup,” I told the bartender. Fizzy, refreshing, a drink that thrives in sunshine: the perfect antidote. He grinned. “A very underappreciated drink,” he said, still smiling, as he fished a bottle of Pimm’s No. 1 from the rear row of bottles, like a cook thrilled to have found a use for the cardamom lurking way back in the spice cabinet.
After pouring the tea-colored liquid over ice, he fetched a small bottle of ginger ale, then paused. “I presume you want it with ginger ale?” he asked.
Well, sure. Ginger ale, as opposed to 7-Up, or lemonade, or club soda. I dig the extra prickle. But this pause made me think. The age-old formula is one part Pimm’s — a mild (and, yes, underappreciated hereabouts) gin-based digestif that’s been slaking British thirst since the mid-19th century — to roughly three parts fizz, dolled up with cucumbers, mint and strawberries. But what else could you add?
Anything and everything, as it turns out. “I haven’t found anything that doesn’t mix well with Pimm’s,” said Jacques Bezuidenhout, the mixologist at Nios, a Times Square restaurant and wine bar that opened in April. Mr. Bezuidenhout is especially fond of fusing one part Pimm’s to two parts blanco tequila.
But for Nios, he said, “I wanted to add to the wine theme.” Hence the Zin Cup, a sort of British sangria in which Pimm’s is mixed with red zinfandel and ginger beer. Sprightly and a little cheeky, the drink has been the top seller at Nios since its opening.
“Pimm’s has history, complexity and the allure of its mysterious ingredients,” said Brian McGrory, the bar manager at Double Crown on the Bowery. (The Pimm’s recipe is a tightly guarded secret.)
Like Mr. Bezuidenhout with the tequila, Mr. McGrory is fond of mixing cross-culturally: He mixes Pimm’s with Polish bison-grass vodka, along with freshly pressed apple juice and a dose of St-Germain elderflower liqueur.
At the recently opened 675 Bar, in the meatpacking district, a drink called the Two Islands Cup pairs Pimm’s with Irish whiskey, along with house-made lemon soda and chunks of honeydew.
Ben Scorah, the mixologist at Beekman Bar and Books on First Avenue in Midtown, adds Creole Shrub, a rum-based orange liqueur, to his Pimm’s formula. Creole Shrub “gives depth and body as well as an amazing orange flavor,” he said in an e-mail message. Mr. Scorah dresses his tweaked Pimm’s Cup with “all the usual suspects,” he wrote. That means a salad of mint, strawberries, cucumber, and orange and lemon slices.
With a Pimm’s Cup, the garnish is more than decorative bunting. The cucumber, for instance, “softens the flavors,” Mr. Bezuidenhout said. The garnishes are also part of the drink’s charms. “When you dress it properly, and put it out on the bar, people flock to it,” he said. Like people, he said, “cocktails attract by sight, and by beauty.”