Spirits & Liqueurs Liqueur

What the #$@! Do I Do with This? Pimm's: What It Is and How to Use It.

Pimm's bottle illustration

Liquor.com / Laura Sant

You bought a spirit or liqueur because a cocktail recipe called for a small amount. Now you’re stuck with the remaining 9/10ths of the bottle and what to do with it. No worries. Creative bartenders weigh in with tips and recipes for getting every last drop out of an underutilized ingredient so it doesn’t gather dust on your bar shelf.

The Pimm’s Cup is right up there with afternoon tea and the Gin & Tonic in terms of beverages closely associated with the Brits. And while this on-the-rocks drink originally created in the mid-19th century as a health elixir is refreshing in the summertime, you might not always be in the mood for a long cocktail garnished with everything but the kitchen sink. If you have the remnants of a bottle left over from a pool party, you don’t need to wait for bathing suit season to return in order to enjoy it in a year-round cocktail.

“I like to use Pimm’s as a great herbal note in cocktails,” says Matthew Betts, the beverage manager for Fielding’s, Sky Shed and Tune Up, all in Bozeman, Montana. “It’s the perfect companion for additional spirits to help creative unique Tiki-style drinks.” His Pimm’s Fizz shakes it with Beefeater gin, grenadine, ginger syrup, lime and an egg white. Betts says the liqueur’s best attribute is its versatility, though it can be challenging to consider it poured into anything but the traditional fruit cup. And while others maintain Pimm’s No. 1 can be the primary component of a cocktail, Betts believes it’s better when it shares a split base with another spirit.

Dean Hurst, a bartender for Datz Restaurant Group in Tampa Bay, Florida, agrees. He uses Pimm’s in split-base cocktails that traditionally call for gin, especially because the liqueur has the juniper-based booze at its core. “The slight bitterness upfront, stale cola center (that’s a good thing!) and dry finish work so well in both and provide an amazing depth of flavor,” he says. “Pimm’s No.1 adds complexity and roundness to the Martini.” His variant on the classic cocktail stirs equal parts Pimm’s, Hayman’s London dry gin, Dolin dry vermouth and orange bitters, garnished with the expressed oil from a lemon peel. As an alternative, using a richer gin, he says, along with a barspoon of Luxardo maraschino liqueur and sweet vermouth rather than dry, nudges the drink toward Martinez territory. 

“When combined with smoky base spirits, the fruit-forward characteristics of Pimm’s provide a very nice contrast,” says Jon Baxter, a bartender and server at The Copper Grouse in Manchester, Vermont. He admits that it can be a tough sell since it’s so entrenched in the culture of the Pimm’s Cup, but shaking it with mezcal, lemon juice and demerara sugar results in a surprising twist on the Sour. He also uses the liqueur in a drink he has dubbed the Really, Really Very British Gin & Tonic, where it’s mixed with Tanqueray gin, lime juice and an Earl Grey-tea-infused syrup. “The best attribute of Pimm’s is its unique flavor,” he says. 

 “Pimm's takes very well to infusing with a wide variety of ingredients to play off its baking spices and fruits,” says Pablo Madrigal, the head bartender at The Loyalist in Chicago. “It also blends very well with chile peppers, introducing a little heat and an unexpectedly welcomed vegetable character.” His After Hours Tennis Club sees Pimm’s No. 1 with strawberries and arbol chiles, then stirred with cask-strength bourbon and a dash each of orange and Angostura bitters, garnished with an orange twist and an arbol chile.

 He believes the elegant and understated quality of Pimm’s No. 1 allows it to integrate with rather than overshadow other spirits, while its moderate alcohol content lets you use liberal amounts in your drinks while keeping them balanced. “[But] that same understated elegance tends to get lost if mixed with particularly loud ingredients like Chartreuse, and its lower ABV can risk your drink coming out flat,” he says.

 Since Pimm’s is already macerated with herbs and other ingredients and is medium-sweet, it shares similarities with amari and fortified wine. As Madrigal advises, “I encourage people to take a step back and place it in a different category that they wouldn't otherwise, like vermouth, and go from there.”

  • Pimm’s Fizz

    Pimm's Fizz

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    “The spicy bite from ginger married with the herbal notes found in Pimm’s creates such an interesting, yet balanced flavor,” says Betts of his take on the Fizz family of cocktails, in which the liqueur joins Beefeater gin, lime juice, grenadine and ginger syrup, getting froth and texture from an egg white and soda water. 

    Get the recipe.

  • Pimm’s Coupe

    Pimm's Coupe

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    “Pimm’s combined with mezcal, fresh lemon juice and demerara makes for a smoky, flavorful sour,” says Baxter of his drink. “It’s usually combined with a sparkling mixer for an easy drink, but when you add it to a standard sour, it becomes super-complex.” 

    Get the recipe.

  • After-Hours Tennis Club

    After Hours Tennis Club

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    “I wanted to play to Pimm's inherent properties with a fruit component but also add an unexpected ingredient like dried chiles for a unique approach,” says Madrigal. Riffing off a Reverse Manhattan, he substitutes an infused Pimm’s No. 1 liqueur for sweet vermouth in this cocktail, which is boosted by overproof bourbon to add structure. 

    Get the recipe.