Pimm’s Cup

Tart and delicious, the Pimm’s Cup is a classic New Orleans cocktail. Made famous in the Big Easy at The Napoleon House in the 1940’s, this cocktail calls for Pimm’s No. 1, lemon juice, sugar and ginger ale. Sip on this refreshing drink to cool off after a warm day. Makes 1 (large) drink.

Love a refreshing summertime cocktail? You’ll adore my Bourbon Peach SlushStrawberry Moscow MuleSpiked Blueberry LemonadePrincess Violette Cocktail and a Strawberry Margarita! You can find more easy drinks to make at home here, too.

A Pimm's Cup sits in front of ingredients for the drink and ice

The classic Pimm’s Cup takes me back to New Orleans and my love affair with The Big Easy, which began when I was in college at LSU. 

Quite honestly, this cocktail recipe speaks to the vibrant culture and people who love and live in the city. They’re some of the same people who helped rebuild and bring the Big Easy back after it suffered so much devastation during Hurricane Katrina. (And in fact, this recipe was originally a part of a series I did commemorating the 10th anniversary of the storm.)

Today, I want to share with you WHY this drink is so special and why I think it’s the perfect summertime cocktail.

And it all comes down to Pimm’s No. 1, the gin-based liqueur, that is the boozy element of this drink. It’s light, floral and a gorgeous golden color. 

While you could make a Pimm’s Cup with another gin, you wouldn’t get the same harmony of flavors between the Pimm’s No. 1, the ginger ale (or sparkling lemonade, if you’re making the British version), the sugar and the cucumber.

Let’s mix a few up, mmmkay?

Other Louisiana dishes you might like: Chicken and Sausage GumboCream Cheese and Raspberry King CakeCrawfish EtouffeeTurkey Sausage JambalayaShrimp and Grits / Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

Would you rather another cocktail? Check out my Cocktail Recipe Index for inspiration.

Bottles holding ingredients for the drink are shown on a marble background

Tools and Products You Need to Make a Pimm’s Cup

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A collage of six images shows how to mix the drink at hand

How to make a classic Pimm’s Cup cocktail

One of my favorite things about this Pimm’s Cup recipe is its versatility. Why?

  • You can mix an individual drink in a 16 oz. glass for yourself.
  • Or you can mix this cocktail in a mason jar (or a cocktail shaker) and then divide it up between glasses.

No matter which way you do it, your first step is to add the sugar and lemon juice to the container.

Stir them with a spoon until the sugar has dissolved. This can take a little time, depending on the temperature of your lemon juice.

Please don’t skip this step because it’s important—the sugar adds sweetness to this drink, and if it sticks to the bottom of the glass/pitcher/jar, it won’t sweeten the drink.

Next, pour in the Pimm’s No. 1, and stir.

And then pour in the ginger ale.

Stir gently. If you’re making an individual glass, add ice and immediately enjoy. If you’re turning it into a batch, divide it between glasses, and enjoy.

Pro Tip for Fancy Cucumber DecorSlice your cucumber reaaaaaaaaaally thin with a sharp knife. The thinner the cucumber is, the more malleable it is. Place 2-3 slices along the side of your glass, then add chunks of ice. Pour in the Pimm’s Cup over the ice, and enjoy immediately.

The final cocktail is poured into a glass with ice and cucumbers

Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips

I was first introduced to the Pimm’s Cup when wandering the French Quarter with friends one day. In fact, we sat in the courtyard at the Napoleon House and sipped these gorgeous drinks while catching up about life. It was pretty ideal.

To me, a Pimm’s Cup is the perfect summertime drink because the flavors just sing together without being overwhelmingly sweet, tart or sour. And it’s perfect for all kinds of gatherings, including a Backyard Barbecue

Here are some tips and tricks for making the BEST Pimm’s Cups for guests while entertaining:

  • Juice those lemons 1-2 hours in advance or purchase the fresh lemon juice in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.
  • Alternately, make a faux-lemonade with your lemon juice and granulated sugar so that all guests have to do is measure in the lemon juice and pour in the ginger ale and Pimm’s No. 1. No waiting necessary!
  • Make it a pitcher drink! Depending on how thirsty you and your guests are, you could go a lot of ways with this. A pitcher is an easy and wonderful entertaining secret, though. To make 8 (large) servings of Pimm’s Cups, combine the following: 12 oz. Pimm’s No. 1, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 16 oz. lemon juice and 64 oz. ginger ale in a LARGE pitcher. You could also make a Pimms Punch, which is similar but a little different!
Three glasses holding Pimm's Cups are shown, surrounded by ingredients and garnished with cucumber rounds

Frequently Asked Questions

What does this cocktail taste like?

This Pimm’s Cup recipe is super refreshing and slightly floral with the combination of sweet and tartness coming from ginger ale and the lemon juice. To me, this cocktail is just really well balanced and pleasant to sip.

The longer it sits, the more you can taste the natural flavors of the cucumber, too.

What is Pimm’s No. 1?

It’s a gin-based fruit liqueur that doesn’t really taste gin-y at all. To me, it’s light, floral and a little fruity.

According to the Pimm’s website, “The rich amber hue of PIMM’S No1 comes from infusing lots of lovely gin with herbal botanicals, caramelized orange and delicate spices.”

The Pimm’s No. 1 is the star in a Pimm’s Cup, which is a refreshing mixed drink.

Depending on where you order it, the ingredients will vary. Both London and New Orleans make their own Pimm’s Cup. That said, my Pimm’s Cup is the NOLA variety. 😉 

Can it be considered a Pimm’s Cup if I don’t use Pimm’s No. 1? Can I use another gin?

I’ve never tasted another gin like Pimm’s No. 1 before, but I bet this recipe would still taste delicious with any London gin. I would add a twist of orange peel, as well as a ½ oz. of sweet vermouth, too.

You can DIY your own Pimm’s, too, if this really strikes your fancy, but you don’t have a bottle of Pimm’s No. 1 on hand.

What can you do to make stirring the sugar in faster? Can you heat the lemon juice?

If you’re making a batch of Pimm’s Cups, I suggest using room temperature lemons (because you’ll get more juice from them!) and stirring in the sugar as a batch. You could also heat the lemon juice for 15 or so seconds in the microwave and then measure in the sugar to make the process faster.

Can you use simple syrup or honey instead?

I wouldn’t use simple syrup or honey in this drink instead of the sugar.

Should you make this ahead of time so the flavors come together? How much time in advance?

You can certainly make this cocktail ahead of time so the flavors can come together! I suggest making it 1-2 hours ahead of time, if that.

If you do this, don’t add the ice until you’re ready to serve it so that the drink doesn’t become watered down.

What’s the history behind the New Orleans Pimm’s Cup?

The Pimm’s Cup was first made popular in the United States at The Napoleon House, a bar in the French Quarter.

The first occupant was the mayor of New Orleans in the early 1800’s, and he offered his home to Napoleon during his exile. And even though Napoleon never made it to New Orleans, the name stuck, and the bar became a gathering place for creatives.

According to New Orleans lore, the cocktail was served because it’s refreshing, light and not too strong.

What’s the difference of a New Orleans Pimm’s Cup and a London Pimm’s Cup? Inquiring minds want to know!

The NOLA Pimm’s Cup calls for lemonade (or ginger ale) and cucumber. The London variety is made with sparkling lemonade and garnished with tons of fruit and fresh herbs.

A Pimm's Cup, surrounded by ice and ingredients, is served on a marble surface

Tips and Tricks for the Best Pimm’s Cup

  • Prepare your ingredients before you start mixing the drink. Slice that cucumber. Measure the sugar. Juice the lemon. And keep them cold.
  • This cocktail is best when chilled, so make sure the ginger ale and Pimm’s No. 1 are cold when adding to the mixture.
  • Even though the cocktail is best chilled, the lemon juice needs to be at room temperature so the sugar can dissolve into it.
  • Make it a pitcher if you’re hosting guests! 
Two Pimm's Cups are surrounded by ingredients and ice, from a 45 degree angle, on marble
two glasses of pimm's with green straws
Yield: 1 cocktail

Pimm's Cup

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Tart and delicious, the Pimm’s Cup is a classic New Orleans cocktail. Made famous in the Big Easy at The Napoleon House in the 1940’s, this summer drink is refreshing and perfect for cooling off after a warm day.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ oz. Pimm’s No. 1
  • 2 oz. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 8 oz. ginger ale
  • Cucumber rounds, for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large (16 oz.) drinking glass or a cocktail shaker, measure in the granulated sugar and the freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  2. Stir with a cocktail spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  3. Pour in the Pimm's No. 1, stirring until the ingredients combine.
  4. Pour in the ginger ale, too, and stir until combined.
  5. If making this in a large glass as an individual portion, add ice cubes, garnish with cucumber rounds and enjoy immediately.
    If making this in a cocktail shaker, pour into 1-3 glasses with ice in them, garnish with cucumber rounds and enjoy immediately.

Notes

What is Pimm's No. 1?

It's a gin-based fruit liqueur that doesn't really taste gin-y at all. To me, it's light, floral and a little fruity.

According to the Pimm's website, "The rich amber hue of PIMM'S No1 comes from infusing lots of lovely gin with herbal botanicals, caramelized orange and delicate spices."

The Pimm's No. 1 is the star in a Pimm's Cup, which is a refreshing mixed drink.

Can it be considered a Pimm's Cup if I don't use Pimm's No. 1? Can I use another gin?

I've never tasted another gin like Pimm's No. 1 before, but I bet this recipe would still taste delicious with any London gin. I would add a twist of orange peel, as well as a ½ oz. of sweet vermouth, too.

You can DIY your own Pimm's, too, if this really strikes your fancy, but you don't have a bottle of Pimm's No. 1 on hand.

What can you do to make stirring the sugar in faster? Can I heat the lemon juice?

If you're making a batch of Pimm's Cups, I suggest using room temperature lemons (because you'll get more juice from them!) and stirring in the sugar as a batch. You could also heat the lemon juice for 15 or so seconds in the microwave and then measure in the sugar to make the process faster.

Can you use simple syrup or honey instead?

I wouldn't use simple syrup or honey in this drink instead of the sugar.

Should you make this ahead of time so the flavors come together? How much time in advance?

You can certainly make this cocktail ahead of time so the flavors can come together! I suggest making it 1-2 hours ahead of time, if that.

If you do this, don't add the ice until you're ready to serve it so that the drink doesn't become watered down.

What's the difference of a New Orleans Pimm's Cup and a British Pimm's Cup?

The NOLA Pimm's Cup calls for lemonade (or ginger ale) and cucumber. The London variety is made with sparkling lemonade and garnished with tons of fruit and fresh herbs.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

1

Serving Size:

1 cocktail

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 224Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 37mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 1gSugar: 36gProtein: 2g

How much did you love this recipe?

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The photos and recipe for this Pimm’s Cup were originally published on August 28, 2015. The photographs, along with the text of this blog post, were updated on May 1, 2020.

Two Pimm's Cups are served next to a Pimm's No. 1 bottle, garnished with cucumbers

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14 Comments

  1. Thank you for this, Erin. A personal account of a historic event is incredibly enlightening. I am so glad you were able to find safety with your friends and had the courage to volunteer. You and Mr. Bill needed each other at that point in time.

    I’ve not tried Pimm’s, but that needs to change! This looks so refreshing and absolutely delicious!

  2. What a fabulous and informative post. I appreciate all the time that went into it. And this drink was so lovely on a hot summer (well, spring I guess) day. Thanks for this!

  3. I had this for the first time a few months ago, scared I wasn’t going to like it, and WOW I loved it. Lost the recipe but thanks to this I am back in business!! CHEERS!

    1. WOOHOO! SO happy you rediscovered the recipe so you can make this at home whenever you want. It’s definitely one of my favorite summer drinks!

  4. Soo yummy, love the reasons behind the cocktail! Planning on making again for Mother’s day!

  5. I fell in love with Pimm’s Cups years ago because of this post, and I am so glad you introduced me! I can’t believe I’ve never commented to tell you how much I love it, but this is my go-to recipe.

    1. Oh, this makes me so incredibly happy to hear, Susannah. This is an all-time favorite, and I love that you fell in love with it, too.

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