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01.07.11 by  

The Violet Hour Mantra: Fill it to the Rim with Pimm’s

When a mix-master of cool champions a cocktail — even one with a seemingly suspect hip factor — we listen. Toby Maloney, the genius tending Chicago’s most stylish mixology den, tells us why he’s single-handedly spurring the rebirth of Pimm’s, one cup at a time. Count us in.

We like a man with a mission, especially when that mission is to “bring the sexy back” to one of our favorite spirits — Pimm’s. Our covert operative: Toby Maloney, head mixologist of The Violet Hour in Chicago. The brief: He’s obsessed, in a mostly healthy way, by the fact that there used to be a wide variety of Pimm’s bases (whiskey, brandy, gin, rum, rye and vodka), but most have been phased out of production. Not on Toby’s watch. He’s been mix-mastering a bar-load of off-the-radar Pimm’s riffs to reintroduce the spirit to his patrons and spur a grassroots movement that inspires the re-launch of the collection [insert "power to the people" cheer and inspirational revolutionary soundtrack]. We got his take on Pimm’s, plus some ways to take the liquid off-road.

the Pimm’s Cup is a cocktail we see on bar menus all the time — what makes this drink so successful?
Toby Maloney:
Most people have heard of the Pimm’s Cup, but not many have tried it, so you’ve got a lure of both the known and the inexperienced. I’ve had many Pimm’s Cups from many different establishments and no matter where you go, each place has it’s own take on it.

how would you describe the flavor?
Pimm’s has an interesting flavor, it’s herbaceous, light, slightly bitter — it works well with a lot of different ingredients and particularly well with gin- and whiskey-based drinks. It’s less polarizing than many of the other potable bitters: Campari, Cynar, Luxardo Bitter, etc., and can be used like a mild chartreuse. It’s incredibly versatile and could even work very well in food, in addition to cocktails.

what’s the standard for mixing a Pimm’s Cup?
There is no standard, even a martini, which only has three ingredients varies widely. Cucumber is probably the only ingredient you will find in every Pimm’s Cup. However, they are always served long and tall, like an herbaceous lemonade they are cool and refreshing. They are also always shaken, not stirred.

for riffing at home, where do we start?
James Pimm first produced Pimm’s and ran an oyster house, so basically anything that would pair well with oysters would go well with Pimm’s. I could even see it in a mignonette sauce — a little acid, some chopped shallot, maybe some lovage or celery leaves … The months of the year when sea water is very cold are the best months for producing oysters and for mixing cocktails with Pimm’s. Mint, berries, ginger, lime juice, gin — we like to add gin because the Pimm’s is so low in alcohol content, it gives the cocktail a kick. The type of gin is completely dependant on how much you like gin. For someone who doesn’t know they like gin yet, it might be better paired with Plymouth, which is lighter with more florals than juniper. For those who like a bigger flavor profile, it should be paired with Tanqueray, a bold, juniper-heavy London dry.

there’s already a salad in the cup, but can you also riff on garnishes?
Try cinnamon, candied ginger or adding a drop or two of Angostura bitters on a mint leaf to give the cocktail a great nose. We also like to garnish with a strawberry for the ladies and a cucumber for the gentlemen — most guys don’t like drinking cocktails garnished with strawberries.

what other cocktails can we make with Pimm’s?
Any cocktail that “needs something,” add a dash of Pimm’s. It’s complex and just works. One-half ounce of Pimm’s in a drink is rarely going to hurt it. Pimm’s is neutral, but interesting enough.

Main Image - The Violet Hour Mantra: Fill it to the Rim with Pimm's

In case you need another excuse to sip: Use Pimm's like Bitters ... to enhance the depth of a drink.

Pimm’s Rangoon

  • 1 1/2 ounce Pimm’s No. 1
  • 1/2 ounce Tanqueray
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce ginger syrup
  • 1/2 strawberry
  • 2 cucumber slices
  • Soda
  • Garnish: mint, candied ginger and cucumber slice or 1/2 strawberry
  1. Fill a Collins glass with shard ice and two cucumber slices.
  2. Muddle Pimm’s, Tanqueray, lime juice, ginger syrup, strawberry and ice.
  3. Strain into glass and garnish with mint sprig and candied ginger, with 1/2 strawberry for the ladies or a cucumber slice for the gents.

Pimm’s Cup Variation #2

  • 1 3/4 ounces Pimm’s No. 1
  • 1/4 ounce Lairds Applejack
  • 1/2 ounce St. Germain
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 9 drops Angostura bitters
  • 1 cucumber slice
  • Garnish: orange peel
2nd Image - The Violet Hour Mantra: Fill it to the Rim with Pimm's

Candied ginger and mint garnish.

  1. Fill a Collins glass with shard ice and a cucumber slice.
  2. Shake all ingredients (except for cucumber) in a shaker of ice.
  3. Strain into glass and garnish with an orange peel.

* To create ice shards (and manage your anger) at home: Take some cubes, put them in a plastic bag and bludgeon them with a rolling pin.