Summer by numbers: what’s in the other Pimm’s cups?

Besides the rain, Wimbledon’s other fixture is a jug of Pimm’s and always the No. 1 cup. But the Pimm’s family once boasted no less than six “cups” – what were they, and where did they all go?

Vintage Pimm'sThe numbers refer to the spirit at the base of the mix, sling or cup.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the main survivor, the No.1, which has endured since 1840, is based on a quintessentially British mix of gin spiked with bitters and aromatics.

Over the 20th century, other variations followed:

No. 2 Cup – Scotch whisky
No. 3 Cup – Brandy
No. 4 Cup – Rum
No. 5 Cup – Rye whiskey
No. 6 Cup – Vodka

Nearly all of these were phased out as sales fell during the ’70s. In 2005, No.3 was reborn as “Winter Cup” – with added orange peel and spices. No.6 is made in intriguingly limited quantities and called “Vodka Cup” – perhaps to distract the curious from wondering about the missing numbers.

The story goes that No.6 only exists because when a company took over Pimm’s in 1969, the chairman’s wife declared it her favourite and persuaded him to spare it.

These days the other numbers only live on in the odd online auction find, or among enthusiasts like drinks blogger David Bridgman-Smith, who may be the closest thing to a fruit cup anorak. Having recreated the missing numbers plus 7, he has just concocted new ones from 8 to 11 and said: “They are not official Pimm’s flavours, they’re a tribute.” He can’t foresee the lost ones being resurrected by brand owners Diageo. “If they were going to expand, they would probably relaunch No.6 first.”

No.7 Cup – Tequila
No.8 Cup – Absinthe and wormwood vodka (“absinthe’s too strong on its own”)
No.9 Cup – Islay whisky (autumn cup)
No.10 Cup – Irish whiskey (spring cup)
No.11 Cup – Shōchū (a light, white Japanese spirit)

Bridgman-Smith starts with a base of the spirit, red vermouth and ginger wine, then adds infusions like sticks of rhubarb to the “spring” cup or even green tea.

He says he’s already plotting No.12 and beyond.

4 Responses to “Summer by numbers: what’s in the other Pimm’s cups?”

  1. Martin Lam says:

    When I first came to London in the 1970s, Fields Wine Merchants in Sloane Avenue had a display of various Pimm’s in their shop window, and so I was introduced to the Vodka Cup, which, as a gin hater, I much prefer !.
    We always stock both versions [1 & 6] at Ransome’s Dock, and have sometimes to explain to customers unfamiliar with anything beyond the ubiquitous No.1 that it really does exist!
    Diageo should not give up on such a famous brand, and with the boom in bars might do well to revive some of the other versions, if they still retain the recipes.

  2. roger m freeman says:

    Have only recently ‘discovered @Pimms No.3 Winter’. 1inch of that in tumbler with generous
    addition of ice cubes then topped up with Crabbies alcoholic(4%) ginger beer makes a beautiful
    warming and refreshing drink.
    Even better I think is to top up with crabbies ‘orange spiced alcoholic(4%) ginger beer.
    Both Crabbies products can be found at waitrose; the ‘basic’ Crabbies ginger beer is widely
    availablein supermarkets/offlicences and in many pubs.

  3. Lucy Kelly says:

    Where can I get any of the different numbered Pimms pls?

  4. sue says:

    Hi there unless you are lucky enough to find deceased estates or online auctions you will not be able to by anything above Pimm`s no1 in stores.
    You may of you are lucky find an online rare drinks store that has a few bottles .
    I work for Diageo and I am a Pimm`s nut
    I collect anything Pimm`s drink anything Pimm`s`
    I am lucky enough to have bought over the years two full sets of Pimms 1 -7
    No news at all that we are going to resurrect any of the other Pimm`s Cups which is a real shame
    I I hear any thing else I will post
    FYI winter cup is fantastic served with warm apple juice

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