No, that’s not something dirty.

In fact, I was perusing recent back issues of the San Francisco Chronicle and came across an article about Pimm’s No. 1, the English gin-based “semi-sweet fruity” liqueur. Apparently the Pimm’s Cup cocktail is making a comeback and is popping up on bar menus all over the Bay Area. [UPDATE: I have recently heard the disquieting news that Pimm’s is no longer made with gin, but with grain neutral spirits. Sigh.]

Except for some of us, though … the Pimm’s Cup can’t make a comeback because it’s never been away. It’s the house cocktail at New Orleans’ legendary Napoleon House, the world’s most civilized bar, and has been for decades. N.O. food writer Pableaux Johnson notes the irony in such a beverage being the signature drink of a bar named for (and a building originally bought for) the deposed Emperor of France: “In 1821, then-owner and former New Orleans mayor Nicolas Girod offered the building to Napoleon as a base of New World operations while the ex-emperor was imprisoned on St. Helena. After a storied career fighting British forces for Euro-domination, would the ‘Little Corporal’ approve such an Anglified beverage?” Probably not, but it’d be fun to see the look on his face if he were offered one.

The Emperor Napoleon

The Pimm’s Cup cocktail is perfect for sweltering summer days (and long nights) in New Orleans, due to its relatively low alcohol content and its nearly endless ability to provide refreshment. Napoleon House uses a fairly simple recipe: a shot of Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, two shots of lemonade, fill with 7UP and add a cucumber slice. I’m not a fan of 7UP, though.

Here’s how Chris McMillian in New Orleans makes it, with a fresh-made lemonade:

Pimm’s Cup
(Chris McMillian’s version)

4 ounces Pimm’s No. 1.
1 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1 ounce simple syrup.
3-4 ounces soda water.
Cucumber slices.
Fresh fruit.

Build in a large wine glass, including the fruit (Chris used blackberries, blueberries, lemon, lime, orange and apple slices), fill with ice and toss back and forth between the wine glass and pint mixing glass to combine. Add soda to top, and stir. Garnish with long, thin cucumber slices. “Welcome to summer in a glass.”

The Chronicle offers a variation that I find intriguing, though …

Pimm’s Cup

2 ounces Pimm’s No. 1.
1 ounce gin (Plymouth or Tanqueray, I’d say).
Ginger ale.
Soda water.
Cucumber slice.

Add the gin and Pimm’s to a highball glass full of ice. Fill the remainder of the glass with a 2:1 ratio of ginger ale to soda water. Stir and place the cucumber slice in the drink (rather than as a garnish).

Ginger ale or ginger beer is the way they’re made in England, and I like the idea of cutting it with soda to take out some of the sweetness. I’m gonna try this next time it gets hot. Hell, I might just try it tonight anyway, and just crank up the heater.