The first time I had a Pimm’s was with my husband’s high school teacher, Mr. B. We had stopped by for a visit on the way to Nova Scotia one year and sat out on his back deck overlooking the St. Lawrence River. I had never heard of this British drink, nevermind tasted it, but it was a pleasant surprise. It was mildly sweet, fizzy and very pretty to look at, garnished with cucumber.
I hadn’t given Pimm’s another thought until I found some borage seeds this spring. Borage is a pretty annual herb with tiny star-shaped blue flowers. It tastes vaguely of cucumber, and I learned that it is the traditional garnish for Pimm’s. Aha, I thought to myself. I need to grow some of this.
I seeded alot of it, and planted it in several different corners of the garden. The ones in the backyard ended up terribly neglected during the summer dry spell and barely managed to bloom. The ones I planted in the vegetable beds, however, took off and grew like crazy. They are about knee-high and have been covered in blooms for months. I quite like the added colour next to the tomatoes and brussel sprouts. And, since my borage-growing attempts were successful, there was only one thing left to do: make myself a drink!
Some research revealed that the Pimm’s Cup drink was created in the early 1800’s, when James Pimm began offering his guests a gin-based ‘digestive aid’ at his London oyster bar. Its popularity as a gentleman’s drink grew in the UK, resulting in a whole line of bottled drinks and even, in 1971, a Pimm’s bar at the famous Wimbleton tennis tournament. Although the Pimm’s website suggests that the original drink is made from Pimm’s mixed with lemonade, there are a million different variations using everything from pomegranate juice to champagne. I prefer mine with humble gingerale (soda water was a dismal failure) and a little bit of ice.
We may not have been watching any tennis matches, but I was happy to serve a Pimm’s Cup to friends when they popped by over the summer. It seemed so decadent served in tall crystal glasses with my pretty blue flowers and lent an unusual air of sophistocation to my backyard. Sadly, the weather is cooling off and there is less need for a refreshing afternoon drink. So after my summer adventure I am left with borage plants that will soon succumb to frost and a lonely, unfinished bottle of Pimm’s.
I suppose I could drink it as another mixed drink, the “Winter Pimm’s” made with warm apple juice. But I think instead I will just look at it longingly from time to time and dream of next July. Everyone needs something to look forward to during the long Canadian winter, after all.