Classic Pimm's Cup Makes a Comeback in Metro Phoenix

In this new series, Chow Bella blogger Nikki Buchanan shares what's hot right now -- and we're not talking about the temperature. Whether it's the latest trendy ingredient or the right dish for the season, she'll give you the backstory and where in town you can find it.

It's official. Our five-month summer is here. A long haul of this proportion calls for cold, refreshing beverages -- preferably alcoholic. England's favorite summer drink is the Pimm's Cup, and like so many classic cocktails, it's making a comeback here in the States.

Although it's considered an aperitif (a low-alcohol cocktail drunk before dinner to stimulate the appetite), it's so light and refreshing, it makes a great sipper any time.

Here's the backstory:

James Pimm, who ran a popular oyster house in London in the 1820s, invented Pimm's #1 -- a gin-based liqueur with spicy, citrus-y, botanical notes -- for his customers, who were knocking back straight gin (and surely grimacing) with their oysters. Later, he invented a light punch using Pimm's #1, which he served in a tankard and christened "#1 Cup." It's entirely possible that Pimm was England's first mixologist.

Although the English make their Pimm's Cup with lemonade, in the States, we usually use ginger ale or ginger beer. A light effervescence is what we're going for here.

The Brits turn their glasses into a fruit salad, garnishing them with cantaloupe, oranges and cherries, although the traditional garnish is simply a thick slice of cucumber and a sprig of borage (a cucumber-flavored herb with medicinal properties). Nowadays, many bartenders substitute mint, which is in the same family.

Want to find out what the Pimm's Cup is all about? Here are three great examples to taste-test:

AZ 88 This streamlined restaurant/bar on Scottsdale's Civic Center Plaza makes a straightforward Pimm's Cup -- combining Pimm's #1, ginger ale and muddled cucumber in a classic Moscow Mule cup (short and metallic). Garnished with cucumber, it looks and feels frosty and stays plenty cold ($8).

FnB Although this small, farm-focused restaurant in Old Town is famous for its AZ-only wine list, there's always a seasonal cocktail on the beverage menu. Right now, they're offering a Pimm's Cup made with Pimm's #1 and ginger beer, garnished with Persian cucumber ($10).

Windsor Craig DeMarco's quintessential neighborhood hangout peddles a 32-ounce pitcher of Pimm's for its weekend brunch, combining Pimm's #1 with Reed's Ginger Beer (an artisanal soft drink augmented with pineapple juice and honey) and fresh lemon juice ($5). This stuff is so delish -- and so affordable -- you might want your own cucumber, lemon and mint-garnished pitcher.

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