In 2002 I found myself caught up in London just before the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, celebrating 50 years on the throne. It is probably the most patriotic celebration I have ever seen. You couldn’t look six inches without seeing a Union Jack or the Queen’s face plastered on knickknacks, like a China dish or tea-cup or box of biscuits. Perhaps it is the time between the various jubilees (25 years for silver, 50 for gold and 60 for diamond) or perhaps it is just an excuse to celebrate for the oft-reserved Brits. Even as a monarchy indifferent Yank (but admitted anglophile), you couldn’t help but be caught up in the excitement that seemed to be buzzing all across England’s capital city. This coming weekend (June 2nd-5th to be exact) is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and by all reports, the same energy and excitement is once again sweeping across London.
With the return of scorching heat in the city and the city-wide lethargy and grumpiness that it brings, I figured this would be the perfect time to grab a bit of that British energy and fervor and harness it for our own good. I also thought this was the perfect opportunity to whip up a few truly British cocktails.
The Pimm’s Cup
The Pimm’s Cup is a British staple for the warmer months as it is incredibly refreshing and (depending upon the recipe) can be fairly light on the alcohol. I’ve got three recipes here of varying complexity, depending upon the size of the gathering and the amount of work you feel like doing:
1 Part Pimm’s No.1
3 Parts Chilled Lemonade
Add mint, cucumber, orange and strawberry
The Pimm’s Company
2 ounces Pimm’s No. 1
5-7 ounces ginger ale, lemon-lime soda or club soda
1 sliver cucumber rind for garnish
The Joy of Mixology, Gary Regan
2 ounces Pimm’s No.1
.75 ounces Lemon Juice
.5 ounces Simple Syrup
3 cucumber slices (one for garnish)
1 ounce Fever Tree Ginger Ale
Muddle the cucumber and simple syrup
Add Pimm’s and lemon juice, shake with ice
Strain into chilled Collins glass
Top with Ginger Ale and garnish
The PDT Cocktail Book, Jim Meehan
If you really want to get in on the action but can’t motivate enough to tend bar yourself, there is always the Napoleon House. A Pimm’s Cup on the inner courtyard on a nice day is pretty hard to beat. If you need a bit more kick out of your British drinks, I recommend a Pink Gin.
An incredibly simple drink with numerous adaptations. Pink Gin is a traditional British Navy drink. Back in the day, Angostura bitters were used by the English navy as a cure for seasickness. In case you haven’t tried Angostura bitters on their own, they aren’t the best. Particularly if you’re seasick. So to help the medicine go down, the Brits did the sensible thing. They mixed it with gin.
1 part Plymouth Gin
Lemon twist garnish
Stir gin and 3-6 hearty dashes of bitters with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass.
This simple drink is easily adaptable to a more refreshing version simply by straining over ice into a highball glass and topping with tonic (I recommend Fever Tree). Stick with the lemon twist as your garnish.
Now if you don’t want to be bothered with making a fuss over the Queen on her special weekend, you could just go with her favorite drink, the ever delicious gin and tonic.
And there you have it, a handful of traditional British drinks for you to roll out this weekend in honor of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee or just to beat the heat and get a little more pep in your step!