Of course I came to it like most things, peering in from the sidelines, checking out what everyone’s doing. Like kosher salt and vanilla beans, I got it from gossip first- then waited for the right moment. I’d never heard of the stuff when Molly wrote about it last summer, and then it came up again here and there, and then my friend Naya sent me a few emails that turned out to be our primary guidebook to the city, and there it was again: “have a pimm’s cup.”
And so there we are, and it is Saturday. We’ve started our in depth perusal of the road food festival and there appears our friend Alice, who, superhero that she is, decided to fly standby from Providence so that she could spend four hours eating in New Orleans with us before getting back on a plane to go back to graduate school. This is Alice. I have known her for a long, long time, and she continues to surprise me in a good way.
And so we ate. And when it was time for Alice to go, we walked her back to where she had parked her funny looking rental car, which was almost all the way out of the French Quarter, and across from Louis Armstrong Park, which still remains eerily and firmly closed since Katrina. And we hugged and said goodbye, and when kisses were blown and she was on her way back to the airport, Joey and I let out a collective sigh at the shortness of the visit. I looked up, and there was a little sign, and I said, “isn’t this that bar that we were supposed to find?”
And of course, because it was New Orleans where all of the places seemed to find us, it was. It was only 3 o’clock, earlier than usual for a drink in my usual life, but it was New Orleans, and so really, we were late to the party. And so we slid into a little white leather booth, and I swear to you that the air smelled sweet and the music was perfect. And I said to Joey, “I’m so glad that we don’t have anywhere even remotely this fabulous near us. I’d drink here everyday.”
The drink menu read like an epic poem, and I wanted to order every single thing, just for a taste of each. Of course, I never had to think about what I would order. It was time for the Pimm’s cup.
Pimm’s #1 is a British liqueur for sunny days, and it can be mixed with many things, but the classic is ginger ale or 7-up. My Pimm’s cup at Tonique was my first of several over the next 36 hours that I had left in New Orleans, and I studied the differences. What made Tonique’s cocktails so special, besides the perfection of the place itself, was it’s ice. I was so moved by the ice, and I marveled at it’s squareness and stability within the drink. I tried to contain myself, but I had to ask the lovely tattooed bartender how she made such ice. “We have a special machine,” she said, and although she told me the long and scientific name, I was drinking at 3 o’clock, and I don’t remember what it was called.
That first Pimm’s cup was fantastic, but later there was one with sliced cucumber. It seemed like a pretty garnish, but what it really did was infuse the whole drink with coolness. I would imagine that if it were Summer, and I were sitting on my porch, I would pick a bit of mint and smoosh it up in there too. I’ve heard rumors of strawberries if the time is right. I think that the possibilities are endless.
And what does a Pimm’s cup taste like? Besides summer itself, I’d say there’s a bit of fruity iced tea in there. My first thought was that although I’ve always hated the whole Dr. Pepper/ Moxie family of sodas, this would be how they would taste if they actually tasted good. Don’t get me wrong- this is not an April kind of drink. This is not an eve of snowstorm kind of drink to sip while you are stirring soup to get you through the hunker down.
Except that it might be. If you’re like me and you’re timings a little off, if you come late to the party or laugh a beat after the joke is over. Screw timing. The winter has been long, and we need summer any way we can get it. It will come, friends, and by the time it does, you will be an expert at mixing your perfect Pimm’s cup.
(partly from the back of the bottle, and partly from my favorite parts of my varied New Orlean’s Pimm’s cups)
Start with a tall glass. Fill it half way with ice (from a special machine!). Add about 1 1/2 to 2 ounces Pimm’s #1. Then fill it most of the way up with ginger ale (Reed’s brew is a winner here). Add a hefty squeeze of lemon, a hefty squeeze of lime, and stir. Top with slices of cucumber. Acceptable to drink with a straw.