It is from deep in the frozen depths of mid-February that we write this; our first missive of 2011. While there are still many weeks until we find ourselves ensconced in more favorable temperatures, the question on everyone’s lips is, “When may we start drinking Pimm’s Cups again?” Well, it is certainly acceptable to drink Pimm’s year-round. I do say! The enjoyment of an apertif of such venerable reputation can hardly be relegated to a few short months. Oh no no NO! Pimm’s N0. 3 “Winter Cup” makes a delightful warm beverage with which to warm one’s self, or loved one; fortifying the spirit and soul against the bleak late winter months. However, it is Pimm’s No. 1 which remains the crown jewel of James Pimm’s legacy. And, as with the lovely crocuses of Victoria Park, its return signals the return of spring, favorable weather, and the exciting eventuality of summer! Oh ho!
Exciting as it can be to count down the final few weeks until the return of spring, we must remain dignified and refrain from the drinking of Pimm’s No.1. Not only as a simple showing of reverence for tradition, which, I might add, is the reason we’ve all come together. Oh no, there is a much more prudent reason, for that we are not drunkards! First, let it be said that it is not our wish to compare anyone to the over-consuming denizens of bowery halls and public houses, for whom the ability to call an end to a night’s drinking is as foreign as the knowledge of the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow. Far from it, for we shall not be the first to cast such aspersions as we quite enjoy the view from our little glass house. Oh no, it is not those who cannot control the ending of their drinking that we call into question, but those who cannot control the beginning of their drinking. Those that arrive at social engagements having already engaged quite heavily with the bottle. Those that greet their friends face to faced, rather than allowing them the courtesy of getting faced together! It is these people who cannot control themselves at the mere prospect of spirits that we wish not to imitate. So, it is for this very reason that we should not partake in the enjoyment of a Pimm’s Cup until a suitable hour upon the day of March 21st.
Somewhat coincidentally there has always been a bit of row as to when spring ‘officially’ starts. Traditionally it has been held that the day of March 21st marks the beginning of spring. Although lately some people have taken it upon themselves to declare the 1st of March the first day of spring. While we believe this to be an indulgent disregard for tradition, we are also not alone. Stuart Bell, Labour party MP for Middlesborough states, “Spring starts on March 20/21, and if people are not aware of this simple fact, it reflects a casual approach to facts, which is all too inherent today.” Well said, I do say!
The Pimm’s Cup, like anything worth doing, is worth doing right, and the easiest way to tell if your bartender or host is “doing it right” is by looking at the type of glassware they’re using. If your Pimm’s Cup comes served in a lowball glass, send it back. If it comes served in anything with a stem, forget about it. If it comes served in a boot, call a cab, because if you’ve allowed yourself to be seen in an establishment that serves drinks in glass footwear you are much too intoxicated to continue drinking.
The proper glass for a Pimm’s Cup is a 10.5–12 oz collins glass. These tall glasses are sometimes referred to as zombie or highball glasses. The actual differences between these glasses are subtle and there’s no use expounding on them unless one wishes to sound like a jackass. All of them will work fine for a proper Pimm’s Cup. The reason that the taller collins glass is preferred to the lowball is that the collins has a larger capacity. Lowball glasses typically hold only 8–10 oz., which by the time you’ve added sufficient ice and the requisite cucumber slice or Borage sprig, does not leave much room for the cocktail itself. Lowballs are also commonly associated with whiskey and scotch drinks, which would be as out of place at a summer gathering as mufflers and mukluks! Save those drinks for the fireside evenings of autumn.
Stemmed glassware is shunned for the reason that it is typically reserved for the parlor or dinner table, and would appear too stuffy and a might bit pretentious for casual summertime gatherings.
It should also be noted that the collins glass is the preferred glass for many other summer cocktails. The classic gin and tonic, the Tom Collins (obviously), and the Cape Cod.
So, you want to know what all the hub-bub is over The Pimm’s Cup do you? Well, I doubt anyone could shed better light on the subject than the venerable and audacious Max Sparber of The Bottle Gang. Read on!
While the Wimbledon Championships are still months away it would do us all good to review some of the basic rules of etiquette enforced at the tournament. Even if you do not plan on attending The Championships these rules can be applied to all of your more courtly (ha!) summer gatherings involving grass, sunshine, Pimm’s, and the occasional spat of rain.
Do not make a noise during a rally.
This rule is often misconstrued to mean that everyone must keep quiet at all times. Oh no! Not so! The jocular outburst, the groaners of defeat, and even hand clapping (and not the tithy finger and palm slappy-do common to American golf, but full on applause!) all have their place at The Championships. As it should be for your own summer gatherings. It is, however, knowing when to take part in them that is important. Clever witticisms, feats of athletic prowess (even in lawn bowling), and the greeting of old friends are all worthy occasions to temporarily raise one’s voice. Of course there will be those guests who seem absolutely unable to contain themselves and can be heard bellowing from across the yard for you to tell the story of how you got seasick fishing at Morehead City last year. It is best not to admonish these guests, but rather view them as a naturally occurring phenomenon of social gatherings.
Do not applaud a net cord or double fault.
The failings of others should not be a source of overt pleasure, even if they put yourself in a better standing. It is almost certain that one of your party guests (or even yourself) will spill their drink or find themselves in the weeds after a rather forceful croquet. It is precisely at these times that one’s civility is tested. Please find it in yourself to remain supportive and understanding in these instances. Offer to pour the person a fresh drink, or offer encouragement to the unfortunate player. By all means do not dwell on the incident. Keep the party moving by offering a new topic of conversation or suggesting a new activity. You’ll have plenty of time to discuss the faux pas at length after the unfortunate guest as left the party.
Gentlemen are requested to keep their shirts on.
Unless the gathering in question is taking place in the presence of a swimming pool or beach, gentlemen should not remove their shirts. Doing so may upset some guests—either as a matter of decorum or inferiority. And it is only while swimming that the shirt should be removed. Upon exiting the water it is acceptable to remain shirtless until your hair has dried, at that point redressing is recommended. If your summer gathering permits swimming, the general rule of thumb is that adults should not enter the pool within the first hour of arrival. It is during this time that, as a guest, one should greet the host(ess) and mingle with other party goers. Children, however, are allowed to swim and play with any other children at their leisure, after the cursory greeting from the host of course. Women, on the other hand, should never have their wardrobe requirements dictated, unless it is your wish to experience the coldest, iciest summer party ever seen below the Arctic Circle.
No babes in arms are allowed in any show court.
This last rule has been hotly contested by many a mother for years. In regards to Wimbledon, small children are not allowed due to their unpredictable nature. Crying and temper tantrums are sure to disrupt both the players and the other spectators. It should also be noted that this rule is for the benefit of the child as well. I would be hard-pressed to think of a single child under the age of 12 that would tolerate sitting through a tennis match lasting upwards of 3 hours. In regards to your own summer gathering, if you are expecting well behaved and gracious children, simply state on the invitation that, “Children are more than welcome to attend.” This will give advanced warning to all guests that children can be expected at the event. Conversely, if it is your wish to keep away the vile, unruly children of others simply state, “We request that this event is for adults only.”
And there you have it. With a few simple guidelines, a little foresight, and some modesty, your summer gatherings are sure to be as stately and enjoyable as The Championships. Have a wonderful summer.
Photo from VeganYumYum
There’s not much else that goes as well with a cool glass of Pimm’s than a cucumber sandwich, except perhaps another glass of Pimm’s! Remember that cucumber sandwiches are meant to be subtle additions to your event of repast. The focus of your gathering should be on the friends and fellowship, not the consumables. But, like anything, the devil is in the details, I do say!
The cucumber sandwich belongs to the tea sandwich family, and as such should be small, simple in preparation, and above all easy to eat without making a mess of one’s sundress or slacks. Keep your ingredients to a minimum, there is no real need to be fancy. Guests should find refinement in the manner in which you speak, your carefully chosen attire, and how you are able lose yet another croquet match to a mere child. If the only thing your guests have to discuss at your party is how good the sandwiches are, you have larger problems to tend to. That being said the preparation of cucumber sandwiches should not be taken lightly. Oh no! Shoddy, sloppy sandwiches, if not discussed openly at your party, will certainly be discussed afterwards, and at every subsequent party you or your guests attend.
“Remember David’s party last spring? Oh, those sandwiches were simply dreadful! I couldn’t bite into one without it flopping all over like a beached sardine!”
The only thing you must remember is that the preparation of cucumber sandwiches should be a thoughtful process, but not so thoughtful that it takes your attention away from more pressing matters, such as the removal of dead fowl from the lawn, or the pressing of your suit.
The three main ingredients of a cucumber sandwich are cucumber, bread, and cream cheese. Such simplicity! Beyond these three ingredients feel free to experiment so long as these three ingredients (or at least their function within the sandwich) are honored. For instance the addition of herbs, mainly dill, is often welcome. However the addition of anything beyond these three ingredients must be undertaken with caution. A small piece of smoked salmon will add lovely touch of salty earthiness, but bacon will surely damn the sandwich to whatever Hell it is that ungodly disgusting sandwiches are doomed to.
The most important thing to remember when assembling your cucumber sandwiches is to trim the crusts. Always trim the crusts! This should be done as the final step so that you might create a clean edge on every sandwich. Any overhanging cucumber slices or errant cream cheese will be fixed with a simple slice. There is a famous story that tells of a party host who was so frantic in the making of her cucumber sandwiches that she forgot to trim the crusts! When the sandwiches were presented to guests, with a fine flourish, the host was met with averted eyes and uncomfortable silence. Noticing her faux pas, but too proud to return to the kitchen, she proceeded to offer each and every guest one of her crusty sandwiches, tears streaming from her face. The story ends with the woman leaving the county under the weight of her own shame.
You may choose to serve your cucumber sandwiches closed faced or open faced, the choice is yours. Although, if you choose to serve your sandwiches open faced, be mindful that you do not cut them too small, lest they be confused with canapes and scorned. Closed faced cucumber sandwiches can assume many shapes. Small squares and triangles are often popular. If your party is age appropriate, or you are looking to try your hand at matchmaking (either for a guest, or for yourself!) it is recommended that you cut your cucumber sandwiches into the long rectangles known as ‘Lady Fingers.” This will allow for sufficient innuendo amongst the more flirty of your guests. (hint: If need be, reserve a tray for serving later in the party, this will allow ample time for the object of your desire to have consumed an amount of alcohol sufficient enough to loosen his or her tongue!)
Remember, the focus of your party should be on your guests. Stick to the basics, you should not be working for the sandwiches, the sandwiches should be working for you! Best of luck. Have a wonderful summer!