Monday, July 9, 2012

Pimmseldon, or Wimblepimms

While queuing for tickets for Wimbledon, one must be always congenial and always ready for conversation. Easier said than done. One is outside before dawn -- which, in England in June, is EARLY. The queue for tickets is long (tens of thousands -- though only about a thousand brave souls camp the night) and the wait can be grueling (dozens of hours), but the people around you are more excited than tired. This, however, says nothing of yourself... no matter how excited you are. They want to chat and they want to know just how much you play tennis or don't, and just how many times you have been to Wimbledon.

Feeling like an unofficial envoy and goodwill ambassador, you respond to all questions with a smile and an answer that doesn't make you look out of the loop or entirely stupid. In the loop and partially stupid is entirely acceptable at all pre-dawn hours. You know to be careful because by being an American -- more importantly, being an American abroad -- you know that Americans always get a bad rap for being rude or a little slow because we just talk louder than anyone else.  

"Well, I don't play tennis, so much as dabble and enjoy it on the weekends," you say. "Actually, this is my first time at Wimbledon" (nothing wrong with a little humility after all). Unless you're Jenny, then you try to avoid talking about that invitation-only international tournament that brought you to Wimbledon back in high school. Sense of modesty, or some such.

But then when the Aussies on either side ask you if you've had a Pimm's, you can do little else but gawk, shake your head, and ask, "What's a Pimm's?" Or act affronted and say, "I beg your pardon!" Just for a laugh. The question goes off like a bomb! The Aussies press their hands to their cheeks and foreheads in shock and dismay. How could you not know or never have tasted a Pimm's?

Well, that was more or less the situation we found ourselves in over a week ago (for a full description, see our Writers blog). It was just after dawn, and we had been queuing for tickets since about 3:30 a.m., when our neighbors in the line brought up Pimm's. They made such a convincing case for it that Zach and I resolved to have one as soon as there was a decent break between tennis matches. 

We got our break and, even though we'd spent more than 8 hours in a line already, got in another line at one of the refreshment vendors under Court No. 1. We got our beverages and sat on the sunny knoll known as Henman Hill to drink them. Dear American readers: "Sunny" means something different in a British dictionary. According to more knowledgeable sources across the internet, Pimm's is a fruit cup. American readers are probably thinking of chunks of fruit in a cup (I was), or maybe even along the lines of jungle juice, but that's not the case. Fruit cup, here, means a specialty drink, or a summer cocktail mixing a fizzy drink with a hard alcohol and other flavorings. 

As a drink, Pimm's originated in the 1820s in England and is named for its maker, James Pimm. James was mass-producing by the 1850s and even managed to turn out seven styles of his fancy fruit cups. The brand was picked up by super-corporate drink-conglomerate Diageo in the 2000s, which is why it's getting only a quick mention on this blog. 

(If you ever want to get me and Zach going on how the big, corporate Behemoths are wreaking havoc on anything good, from music to drinks, just say the word "Diageo." Or "Clear Channel." Look them up and you might just be surprised at the brands under their belt. We sure were!) 

The Pimm's (mixed with lemonade, as is tradition at Wimbledon) was refreshing. It looks like iced tea, but it tastes a little sweet and a little dark, like figs. Or a soda pop, light on the fizz, heavy on the flavors. Maybe these comparisons are heightened because we drank it with a straw... Mix in the zing of lemons and the bite of gin, and you've got yourself a fine summer cocktail. 

Now should you ever find yourself abroad, and are asked if you've ever had Pimm's, you have some options. You could pull out your own soapbox and unload on the inquirer about the dangers and downsides of corporate brand acquisitions.

Then again, you could just admit the truth and soon as you're able, shell out the four or five pounds, and have a sip for yourself. 

Or, you could give thoughtful pause (as if searching your auxiliary memory databases), use our description to signify you know what they're talking about, and then riposte with your own question, a recommendation, perhaps, for a local beverage. That way, everyone walks away a winner. You look smart--even for an American. The "big guys" don't get your money. And, in the best of worlds, a new friendship arises between a couple of "little guys" having conversation about some other "little guys" who make good brews, good music, good whatever!


  1. So is a Pimm the brand or the drink itself?

    Could someone make one at home?

    1. Pimm's is the brand, but I think it also refers to the cocktail you get poured at Wimbledon. Without the Pimm's itself, you couldn't make one *precisely* at home... but I imagine a little ingenuity could get a pretty accurate approximation...

  2. Zach is right. I wasn't clear in the post but it is a liqueur and then other drink-gredients mixed in a glass. Thanks for asking Kim. :D