The Spirits #99: The King of Cups
~ Cheats Pimm's ~ Out and About with Martin Parr ~ Creativity, Emotion, and the Unconscious ~ Good Queen Bessie ~ Root Beer Fail ~
📯ANNOUNCEMENT! I was going to do a weird root beer thing this week but then I remembered that it was the Coronation and I should probably do nod in the direction of that jamboree of embarassment. (Also, I made the root beer thing and it wasn’t that nice). The recipe comes courtesy of the wine, spirits and breakfast writer Henry Jeffreys, who has just joined Substack, and whose essay on Pimm’s caught my eye. If you like The Spirits, I strongly suspect you will like Drinking Culture as well as Henry’s books, which include Empire of Booze and the forthcoming Vines in a Cold Climate on English winemaking. More from him below!📯
~ THE KING OF CUPS ~
40ml Italian vermouth
20ml orange liqueur
80ml sparkling water
Stir the alcohols together in the bottom of a glass. Arrange the fruit (not too much) and ice cubes, top with the sparkling water and give it a good stir.
This also scales up rather nicely for a crowd. Multiply the quantities by 10, make a big jug of the brandy-curacao-vermouthbase and refrigerate ahead of time. When it’s time to serve add the ice, fruit and sparkling water, give it a good stir and sashay around the street party dispensing delight.
Some K. of C. Notes:
“In the pre-internet era, the first sign of summer was that Jane MacQuitty, the wine correspondent for The Times, would publish her ‘cheat’s Pimm’s’ recipe. The idea was to recreate the flavour of old Pimm’s No 1 Cup before the alcohol was reduced in the 1980s. It consisted of 2 parts London Dry Gin, 2 parts Italian vermouth and 1 part orange curacao. For about 25 years, I’ve thought, ‘ooh, I must try that,’ and last week I finally got round to it. The results: uncannily like Pimm’s but stronger and fuller. Just the ticket. But of course, Pimm’s used to be available in a myriad of flavours like vodka, rum and whisky so you can play around with the base spirit. I highly recommend the cognac cup made with a decent VSOP like Hine, and rather than lemonade or ginger ale, I just added ice, sparkling water, and an orange twist. It might be my new favourite summer drink.
2) McQuitty urged orange curaçao over triple sec. But as ever, I urge you to use what you can. I used Cointreau and it still tasted Pimmsy.
3) As Henry mentions, in times past (i.e. before Diageo messed about with it), Pimm’s was boozier (40% as opposed to 25%) and came in different varieties. In addition to the gin-based Pimm’s No.1, there was Pimm’s No. 2 (Scotch), No. 3 (Brandy), No. 4 (Rum), No.5 (Rye), No.6 (Vodka). It is typical that all of these variants have been discontinued besides the least interesting one (No. 6). The above is, therefore, a Pimm’s No.3 Cup.
4) Why stop there? Now that you have the formula, you’re only a hop and a skip away from Pimms No.7 (Tequila), No.8 (Mezcal), No.9 (Genever), No. 10 (Pisco), No. 11 (Aquavit), No. 12 (Calvados)…
5) The fizz in Pimm’s is a matter of personal taste. Lemonade will probably win you the most friends - but please make it decent lemonade, ideally homemade. Ginger ale is excellent too. But I rather like the dry simplicity of fizzy water. The result is halfway between an Anglicisied Americano and a Brandy and Soda, Bertie Wooster’s favourite.
6) As for the fruit, again, use whatever you have. Henry counsels just orange. I think cucumber is non-negotiable. Just don’t use the whole fruit bowl.
🖊️I am Richard Godwin.
🧋My instructions for sugar syrup, ice, grenadine, orgeat, etc are here.
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I HAD a wonderful assignment the other week, travelling around London with the photographer Martin Parr, capturing the city on the dawn of the age of Charles III. It’s in ES Magazine today. I’ve long been a fan of Parr’s photography and it was fascinating to watch him up close. “Quick and dirty,” was how he described his modus operandi. He has a hitman’s knack of capturing people before they’re quite aware of what is happening, piercing through the armour of their poses to what lies beneath.
It was my job to I sidle up afterwards and ask everyone what they thought about the Coronation, London, and life in general. I love this variety of reporting and I could do it all day. Vox-popping (as it’s known) is often seen as a low form of journalism as it’s often done quite badly, particularly on TV. A BBC reporter drops into a northern market town when most people are at work, asks two or three people what they think about Prime Minister and concludes: “So, a mixed picture on the streets of Worksop!”
But there is an art to it, I think. Indeed, a high art if you’re Svetlana Alexeivich or Ronald Blythe or Craig Taylor. If you really listen to people, probe them in the right the way and take some effort to capture how they speak as well as what they say, I’d like to think you can take the textual equivalent of a Parr snapshot. At least, that’s what I tried to do here.
THE overriding sentiment re: the Coronation? Indifference. No one really gave much of a damn. Lots of people were curious. Aware that it was “historical”. They’d probably watch it. But no one was truly fussed one way or the other. Besides a hipster butcher, who suddenly withdrew once he realised the photos would be a part of a Coronation issue. He was worried about his “brand”.
I noticed a similar benign indifference at my parent’s Platinum Jubilee street party last year. Bunting, cake, rum punch notwithstanding, no one really even mentioned the Queen - but they were happy enough to have an excuse to talk to their neighbours. I suspect for most British all this pageantry is just background noise. Americans and French people, I’ve noticed, seem to find this hard to grasp - often appearing far more invested in our monarchy than we are.
And yet, almost paradoxically, I’d say, it’s this “so what?” that entrenches the institution more than any fervent love of sceptres and corgis. Philosophically, monarchy is clearly ludicrous and unjustifiable. Morally, the actions of Prince Andrew are sufficient grounds to abolish the lost of them and I suspect that if we did, it might finally allow us to grow up as a country. But this was what pro-Brexit people thought and it didn’t really do much. And do I really care enough to get behind Republicanism? No. There are more interesting things to think about. As for Charles, well he’s hard to despise. He has his environmentalism and unfeigned enthusiasm for diversity to his credit. If he does choose to give vent to his “weird” side as Aris Roussinos suggests here and turn Buckingham Palace into a smallholding - well, that would be something, wouldn’t it? But he probably won’t.
PERHAPS my favourite interview from the Parr shoot was with Ananta Kripa Das, 30, a former physics student and computer scientist from France who had moved to London to become a Hare Krishna. He was the only pro-monarchist I spoke to:
“Being a president or a monarch is very much linked to the divine, because you must have very good karma to be in this position. This is why monarchy is better than democracy. In the scriptures, the King is meant to be leading the people. He is looking out for the welfare of everyone, not only materially but spiritually. The head of the Government is deprived of spiritual knowledge so they will not know how to lead the people. But actually, if King Charles is righteous, pious, and knows the scriptures, then the people will follow. Whenever a great man comes, people will follow.”
People are so interesting.
THE cocktail that I was going to make? It’s called Back to Your Roots and I found it in Perfect Three Cherries by the chef Adam Handling. It stood out as the only drink that is even vaguely accessible to the amateur, because it mixes two types of whisky, and because I like root beer a lot. Naturally, Handling makes his own root beer out of parsnips. I bought some and mixed: 20ml Scotch, 20ml bourbon, 80ml root beer. I wasn’t wild about it to be honest. Perhaps I’ll return to it at a later date. But if you like the general idea, you might enjoy this Reddit thread of interesting soda + whisky combinations.
In tarot, the King of Cups “represents creativity, emotion, and the unconscious. The card shows the ability to restrain one's emotions and be fully in charge of your feelings and impulses. Therefore, the King of Cups represents a balance between the intellect and emotions. He indicates that there is a strong relationship between understanding and feeling.”
But you knew that.
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"I believe there are only two truly regal women in this world," Charles III once said in his long princehood, "my mother and Bessie Smith." This is another point in his favour. In this spirits:
THIS PLAYLIST UPDATES AUTOMATICALLY EACH WEEK. The idea is, you download/’like’ it and return to it each week in your Spotify to find a suite of new songs. If there was an old song you’d like to hear again, you’ll find it RIGHT HERE in the massive ongoing archive of past playlists.
CABINET POSTS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED:
WHAT I’VE BEEN WRITING
What the Coronation means to London (ES Magazine)
WHAT I’VE BEEN READING
Eleanor Catton’s Birnam Wood.
It’s the 100th edition of the Spirits next week! How on Earth did that happen? I’ve been saving this one up. Campari, red wine (ideally Italian), lemon juice, sugar syrup, sparkling water, chocolate, cheese.