Tacofino’s Justin Darnes shows you how to make your own Pimm's-style refreshment.
I can’t imagine that being an oyster merchant in 19th-century London was much of a treat. The city was filthy, its citizens filthier, and consuming raw shellfish was an endless game of gastrointestinal Russian roulette. A farmer’s son from Kent named James Pimm solved the problem in 1823 by unleashing the cleansing simplicity of alcohol (with a few additions) as a “tonic” to aid the digestion of patrons at his dining establishment. He took the rotgut gin prevalent at the time, added a proprietary mélange of herbs and liqueurs, and aged the mixture in his “No. 1” tankard. Soon it didn’t matter if the oysters had been sitting on a sunny dock for a fortnight—people couldn’t get enough of Pimm’s No. 1 Cup. London has cleaned up considerably since then, Londoners shower almost daily, and every serving of oysters comes with a printed health warning. But a glass of No.1—served with some cucumber, a sprig of mint, and a splash of lemonade—is still the perfect remedy for just about anything that ails you. James Pimm’s creation has transformed into the official drink of those who wouldn’t have been caught dead in an 1823 oyster house—for instance, the members of Wimbledon’s All England Club and the patrons of Royal Ascot. Over the years, Pimm’s has experimented with several Cups: No. 2 was based on scotch; No. 3, brandy; and No. 5, rye. But it’s the classic No. 1 that has persevered. And while, at about $23, a bottle is an affordable trip to Jolly Old, it hasn’t stopped creative mixologists from formulating their own versions. Some try to recreate the discontinued Cups and some try to create new ones, like a fabled Pimm’s No. 7 made with tequila. Meanwhile, Tacofino bar manager Justin Darnes chose to make like Vin Diesel with a 1970 Dodge Charger and has souped up the original recipe. THE RECIPE Homemade Pimm’s From Justin Darnes, Tacofino Gastown (15 W. Cordova St., 604-899-7907, Tacofino.com) 6 navel oranges, sliced, skin left on 2 tbsp dried bitter orange peel 1 bunch mint 10 strawberries, chopped 1 cucumber, chopped 1 lemon, sliced 9 oz sweet sherry 12 oz port 21 oz Cointreau 42 oz sweet vermouth 60 oz gin Combine all ingredients in a large preserve jar and infuse for exactly three days. Strain. Makes roughly the equivalent of four 750ml bottles. “It will keep for years,” says Darnes.