Winter warmers

leadRaise your spirits in the thick of winter with a traditionally summertime icon.

Summer and Pimm’s at events like Wimbledon, Cowes Week and Ascot may seem a distant memory, but a warm version using the brandy-based Pimm’s No 3 could help you survive a cold winter.

Pimm’s No 1 Fruit Cup, to give it its full title, was invented by James Pimm in 1823 as an aid to digestion. It is based on gin infused with fruits and the original secret recipe is still used today, although I cannot see how that can be verified. No matter, it still tastes the same to me as it always has done.

Other variations of Pimm’s with vodka, rum, rye and Scotch whiskies fell by the wayside in the course of Pimm’s being taken over by larger drinks companies. However the rebranding of the brandy-based version as Pimm’s No 3 Winter in 2005 was a masterstroke.

It was partly to alleviate the autumn to spring sales dip of the summer-specific Pimm’s No 1. It has caught on as a winter warmer, especially when mixed with apple juice plus, if you like, a small measure of Calvados (apple brandy) and heated gently. Like Pimm’s No 1, it is 25 per cent abv and about £15 a 70cl bottle. It makes a great alternative to the perennial mulled wine.

The thought of Pimm’s at a club winter party can bring the next sailing season seemingly nearer. Come the London Boat Show days are already lengthening and after a Pimm’s No 3 party guests will leave with a spring in their step.

crabbiesWarming ginger wine

Crabbies Green Ginger Wine, on the other hand, is almost a winter staple. At 13.5 per cent abv, it works on its own or as a warmed mixer with Scotch, aka Whisky Mac. Widely stocked at around £6 for a 70cl bottle.

Ginger wine suffers from the opposite seasonal sales dip to Pimm’s but Crabbies also makes a really good alcoholic ginger beer at four per cent abv. It is mainly for the summer months but is just as good in winter and available year round at most supermarkets. About £1.80 for a 500ml ‘beer’ bottle size.

beerTraditional winter beer            

Hepworth’s Old Ale is a Sussex traditional winter brew but bottled for year-round appreciation. Dark and full of roast malt character, at first slightly sweet almost like a barley wine, then a slightly bitter finish of the Admiral hops.

It is not too strong at 4.8 percent abv. Gluten free and suitable for vegans, this beer can be served slightly mulled (warm). About £2 for a 500ml bottle at Waitrose.


Pimm’s Winter Wonder

  • One measure of Pimm’s No 3 Winter
  • Two measures of apple juice (try James White organic.
  • A cinnamon stick or powdered cinnamon
  • Half a measure of Calvados (optional)
  • In a saucepan, bring the apple juice to simmer heat, add the cinnamon, Pimm’s and Calvados and bring back to gentle simmer – do not let it boil. Serve into mugs or sturdy glasses. Delicious!