Fire in the Hills:Pimm’s Cup

September 8, 2010

I’d never heard of a Pimm’s Cup cocktail until this year.  Maybe because the Pimm’s Cup is the official cocktail of Wimbledon, and I don’t do tennis.

Confession: I’d rather be drawn and quartered than watch tennis on the telly. Yes, even if Roddick or Rafe is steaming up the court. I just find it kind of a snoozer.

Maybe it’s because I don’t actually play tennis? I tried to learn–I did. Mama signed me up for tennis one summer, and after a few lessons, the tennis instructor suggested that I join the swim team. Apparently, you need some coordination to succeed at tennis, and I don’t have any. Hey, at least he was honest.

I didn’t know tennis had an official cocktail?  The only sport I know with an official cocktail is horse racing. I love the horses. Alas, I don’t feel the same about the Mint Julep. Too sweet for me, dudes.  I was suspicious of the Pimm’s Cup, but I tried one this summer and was hooked. These suckers are refreshing! In fact, I brought a pitcher of them to a neighborhood pool party and within a half hour, people were berating me for not bringing at least three pitchers of the stuff. Forget the lemonade stand; next year, I’m setting up a Pimm’s Cup stand in my neighborhood. I’ll be richer than a Kardashian sister by September.

Since they were so popular at an August pool party, I decided to make them again for a little Labor Day gathering this past weekend. The mercury was going to be in the summer-ish range, so I thought a pitcher of Pimm’s would suit nicely.

I was humming in the kitchen, happily slicing lemons and washing sprigs of mint, Debbie Harry (my pre-party diva of choice) rockin’ in the background, when the phone rang.

The call was coming from my husband’s cellphone, which was a bit odd, since the dude was on a jog. I don’t know about any of you, but I can’t talk and jog at the same time, let alone dial. I picked up, only to hear a panicked, “What the Hell is on fire?”

“Fire?” I said. Stupidly, my first instinct was to scan the kitchen…as if the man was gonna take a jog around the house and peek in a window?

“Look outside!” he panted. “There’s a huge cloud of black smoke and it’s blowing our way!”

I raised the blinds in the kitchen and sure enough, he wasn’t a-lyin’.

I do believe I uttered a few choice expletives. Still, like a moron, I just stood there, gawking.

“Move! Go find out where it’s coming from!” my husband said, and with that, I ran to the computer. Well, okay, first I stopped in the bathroom because I seriously thought I was going to pee myself.

By this time, Awesome Stepkid R. had rattled into the vicinity, video game halted. Hearing swearing like that will do that to a kid. While I searched on the computer, he ran upstairs and said, “You can really see it from the balcony. I think it’s coming from Boulder?”

Smart kid.

The fire was, indeed, coming from Boulder. Specifically, the 4 Mile Canyon area. And the reason the smoke was so heavy and so black was because it was Hella windy and it’s been so dry here that everything is parched. Fire danger has been in the red.  This was not good news. Especially when we learned that the fire quickly (almost immediately) spread in all directions, and it was hauling ass. In conditions like that, for residents of Boulder County, it could be anyone’s game.

We spent some tense hours, but as we paced and tweeted and turned on the sprinklers and decided that no, we weren’t going to cancel the cookout (the damn fire was still going to burn, no matter what company we kept), we noticed a shift. The darkest part of the cloud was shifting in a new direction. And while we were relieved, we also knew that for others, this was worrisome news. This is Colorado. Things change on a dime.

View from our balcony as winds change direction yet again

As our sky turned from gray-black to a strange orange color, we wondered what was in store. Ultimately, the flames headed dangerously close to my friend Jen. Luckily, she’s safe and didn’t have to evacuate, but when a friend tweets that she’s making a list of things too precious to leave if she needs to flee, it stops you cold. Well, it almost stopped us. We watched the sky with a few friends, worried about people we know and love and tossed a few glasses back. At the time, we totally justified Pimm’s Cups as medicinal fortification, and I doubt many would argue with us.

Spooky sun

Pimm’s Cup

serves 1 (can easily be doubled, tripled, quadrupled or pitcher-fied)

1 1/2 ounces Pimm’s #1 liqueur*

Ginger ale or lemon-lime soda

Garnishes: lemon slices, cucumber slices, mint sprigs (cucumber/mint is optional but you need the lemon)

Fill a tall glass halfway with ice. Add Pimm’s. Top off with ginger ale or lemon-lime soda. Add desired garnishes. Stir and enjoy. Or justify as medicine.

*The main component of the Pimm’s cup is a liqueur from Britain called Pimm’s #1. I’d never heard of it, but I found it at my neighborhood liquor store, in the section where you’ll find the Grand Marnier.

As I write this, rain is falling in the 4 Mile Canyon area, which is truly a blessing. Still, we’re far from out of the woods.  Well over 6000 acres have been destroyed and the fire’s still blazing, with dry and windy weather forecast for the next couple of days.  We’re hoping for some kind of containment soon, although authorities say that it may take days. My thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost so much, and with the brave individuals out fighting this fire.  Thank you, sweet readers, for all of the emails, IM’s, tweets and phone calls. We’re keepin’ on keepin’ on.

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Carol September 8, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I think fire is the most frightening thing in the world. I’m glad the wind turned for you and hope it stays calm long enough for the fire to be contained and no further danger. We had a similar, albeit much smaller, situation a couple weeks ago – a vehicle caught on fire and the fire spread to the dry grass alongside the road and was traveling towards a new development to our west and towards us. They evacuated the development, but the wind then shifted and blew the fire into an unpopulated area, where it was soon contained. We spent a couple of very anxious hours watching though. Pour another glass of wine – or Pimms!


Jody September 8, 2010 at 4:47 pm

“Pimm’s and lemonade,” as it is called there, was the drink of choice for Sunday afternoons in Oxford. They are especially tasty served in an isolated pub on the river, accessible only by foot or bike. The friend who introduced me to them said, “Just be careful – it’s easy to drink about a dozen, and you’ll fall on your face when you finally stand up.” Wise words. The bike ride home was hell and I very nearly ended up in said river.


Corinne September 8, 2010 at 4:51 pm

So scary… glad you’re ok.
When I worked at a hotel, years ago, my boss’s favorite drink was Pimms :)


Manisha September 8, 2010 at 4:54 pm

I’ll have a couple five of those, please. It’s been a tough couple of days from the sidelines, imagine how devastating it has been for those in the middle of it all. Firefighters rock!


K September 8, 2010 at 4:57 pm

I’ve noticed my grocery bill has gone up since I started reading you. Now I have to find Pimm’s. sheesh. I just happen to have mint in my backyard and lemons down the street.


jc September 8, 2010 at 5:15 pm

You have no idea how much I hate fire. Get fireproof+waterproof boxes for your passports, ss cards, favorite pics, CDs, emergency info, an extra cell phone, cash, etc. Keep the boxes together. Whatever isn’t destroyed by flames is destroyed by water trying to put out the fire or by the roof collapsing on everything. And get your insurance up to date NOW.

I bet it looks like a volcano from your balcony at night. I hate fire.


Velva September 8, 2010 at 5:31 pm

I did not realize that you lived close enough to Colorado wildfires. Living in Florida, and having similar experiences with wildfires, I understand the devastation that it causes. I am sorry to hear that so many people have lost so much as a result.

The Pimms cocktail? I got to try this one too.

btw, you need to stop by my blog to check out my Wordless Wednesday. I think you will enjoy it.


Jennifer September 8, 2010 at 6:15 pm

My heart goes out to all of those people affected. It is so sad and scary. I hope they are able to get it put out soon.


elizabeth September 8, 2010 at 6:28 pm

I’m so glad you guys weren’t too affected by the fire! As you know, I’m a new convert to the Pimm’s Cup–and I’m told that lemon soda is the most authentic to use.


Heather September 8, 2010 at 6:56 pm

I’ve been thinking about you and yours and hoping all was well. It’s so very scary to have something so out of control threatening your home and your family. Here’s hoping the rain helps out those brave firefighting souls enough to help end the danger.


Gibby September 8, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Stay safe, Kitch! And keep that pitcher of Pimm’s close by…


LJ September 8, 2010 at 7:34 pm

I’ve been listening to the Boulder Police and Fire frequencies since yesterday. (I’m a scanner and HAM radio nut.) I get them on my iPod. I hope you are not in any danger! I used to live in Denver and am originally from Wyoming. Stay safe up there!


Virginia September 8, 2010 at 7:38 pm

That explains our hazy sunset today. I live in Colorado Springs. Glad you’re okay!

The drink sounds delicious. I just found your site today through Corrine and I’m so glad I did!!


Cathy September 8, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Oh that is spooky scary. I was up in the Sierra Nevada foothills staying with my Uncle one time and woke up to snow, except that it wasn’t snow. It was ash. And that’s a very bad thing.

Glad the winds are at your back….stay safe.


Camille Bright-Smith September 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Scary thing that fire. She owns us, doesn’t she? You know its dead serious when they can’t save the firefighters houses, because I’ve known a few and their houses certainly got lots of extra attention from the chemical drops. So far 4 of the people fighting the fire have lost their homes. And dozens of others. And hopefully no people and hopefully no pets….

Your gift came through today Kitch. You had me laughing out loud and bent over in worry all in the same post. And NOW I need a drink…..


Bryan September 9, 2010 at 2:20 am

Wow you have a knack for taking a reader all over the place in a post.
1. Colorado is on fire! you are in my prayers! It sounds like you are safe but I have never been that close to something like that.

2. Pimms is awesome! I always used club soda and lemon, just like a little sip of sunshine. Now I am going to have to pick some up.


Camilla September 9, 2010 at 2:53 am

I am so sorry you are all in the thick of it. It seems ridiculous, your burning up over there while floods are destroying houses/ lives here??

Take care, have another sip and send you all my best wishes


Vickyb September 9, 2010 at 4:22 am

As a Brit, can I say that we would consider the lemon to be optional and the cucumber and mint absolutely essential. I don’t know anyone that adds lemon to their Pimms – it tends to be orange, and some halved strawberries if you have some knocking around. It’s such a great drink, and over here we also have a winter Pimms, which is a version that is spiced and rich and delicious. You can have it hot or cold but I love it served like mulled wine – winter Pimms and apple juice, served warm with an orange wedge and a cinnamon stick.

Great log, btw!


TheKitchenWitch September 9, 2010 at 6:17 am

Vicky b: Interesting to know how it’s done over there–I’ll have to try it your way! I just took the recipe off the Pimm’s bottle!


Vickyb September 10, 2010 at 3:22 am

My parents used to make it that way for every summer party when I was growing up, and everyone else I know would follow the same recipe. It reminds me of my childhood, my dad used to let me eat a couple of pieces of the fruit as a little treat, but it’s definitely served me well in adulthood – I make it for every BBQ and my July birthday. One particularly epic BBQ a couple of months ago ended with fruit EVERYWHERE on the decking! It looked like a fruit basket bomb had hit the garden when I went to clean up the next day!

Glad the Pimms was a bit of light relief in your scary week – I hope things are improving.


Vickyb September 9, 2010 at 4:22 am



Lea Ann September 9, 2010 at 5:05 am

So glad to hear you don’t live in that fire area. I thought about you when I heard about it. Even from Highlands Ranch, that smoke looming over downtown and out to Stapleton was a sight to see. So sad about everyone who has lost their homes. Just makes me sick to think about it. We had a roofer here to make some repairs yesterday. He lives a few miles east of the fire and has taken in 13 horses.


Erica@PinesLakeRedhead September 9, 2010 at 5:27 am

Wowzers. That’s scary having the fire so close. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you. Stay safe and have more Pimm’s. It looks quite refreshing.


Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon September 9, 2010 at 5:37 am

Kitch, glad that the fires didn’t hit your neighborhood. Pimms? I probably should have tried some last summer when I was in England. But I didn’t. I am a bad tourist.


Futureblackmail September 9, 2010 at 5:46 am

So glad that you are all okay. Here’s hoping they can get that contained….and fast!


Suzi Q September 9, 2010 at 7:31 am

I heard about the fires in Colorado and I was going to ask if you were close to that. This answers all my questions. Hope things calm down over there soon!


Aging Mommy September 9, 2010 at 7:48 am

It’s funny for me as Pimm’s is regarded as such a very old fashioned drink in England, akin to the Dubonnet era, all the rage at those swinging 60’s and 70’s parties.

I definitely think a Pimm’s stand of an early evening in your neighborhood each night next summer would make you a mint :-)


~Laura September 9, 2010 at 8:05 am

Stay safe! Thinking of you guys as we’ve heard daily about the fires out there. Hopefully, all will be well again soon.


Jenna September 9, 2010 at 8:21 am

Wow–that is one freaky looking sun. And scary looking cloud. So glad it didn’t come your way. BTW, Pimms at a pool party sounds amazing right now.


Emily Z September 9, 2010 at 8:50 am

Amazing pictures. I had a friend who went to college in Durango, Colorado. She also got married there. I remember touring Durango between wedding events and seeing the lines of trees, bare and blackened from recent fires. It is a scary thing. I am glad you all are alright. I also hope those fires die down soon! Thanks for sharing your story! I’d drink after seeing that too! ;)


The Curious Cat September 9, 2010 at 9:35 am

Oh dear! I hope things improve! Scary stuff really….makes me think of those aussi fires last year…Thank goodness it is raining a bit… keep us updated on how things pan out… xxx


SuziCate September 9, 2010 at 10:28 am

Had I known they had their own drink, maybe I’d have given tennis a shot. Nah, I wouldn’t have but I might’ve thought about it! Glad that fire wasn’t any closer. We had some fires some here a few years ago that burned for like a month…they were quite a dstance away but we could see and smell it everyday…it was terrible…and often it hurt your eyes as well.


Mrs.Mayhem September 9, 2010 at 10:36 am

Oh my, that is a very scary situation. Those poor families who have had to leave their homes. I’m glad that your family hasn’t been affected.


Sherri September 9, 2010 at 11:09 am

Do like Wimbledon ….. did not know about the cocktail, but… then again, I am way out of touch lately…. THANKS for the fyi. Terrible about the fire……. very scary. I’m truly sorry for all those evacuated and wondering about the safety of their homes.


Eva @ Eva Evolving September 9, 2010 at 11:42 am

My goodness, those wildfires are scary! Keeping all of your Coloradans in my thoughts.

A friend of a friend introduced me to Pimm’s a few years ago, and I was pleasantly surprised! And I’ve never been good at tennis either. Klutzy Eva on the tennis court, trying desperately to serve, then losing my temper with my racket = wild entertainment for everyone else.


Biz September 9, 2010 at 11:49 am

Wow, that’s scary how close that is! I guess that’s one good think about living in the midwest! Glad you all were well, and if I were in your shoes, I’d have two glasses of your drink! :D


Belinda Munoz + The Halfway Point September 9, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Glad to hear you keep on keepin’ on after the fire.

Nothing like a threat to lose everything to make one think about what’s truly valuable.


Justine September 9, 2010 at 12:18 pm

When I read about this, I thought about you. Glad your family’s OK, but it’s still devastating to those who were affected by this. How in the world did you manage to weave in a recipe with a story like this? Oh right, with finesse, as usual.


alisha September 9, 2010 at 12:30 pm

i read you everyday because you remind me of nigella and omg how i love nigella. i never comment because my culinary skills consist of box mac and cheese and a mean sour-cream and store bought salsa dip. just wanted you to know i’m thinking of you and all the people in your area as well and sending prayers. i have a friend who’s a woodland firefighter in that area, so continued prayers for them. and as a native gulf coaster who has weathered many a hurricane party, i’m so glad y’all kept the soiree going!!!


Tiffany September 9, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Thinking of all that are affected!!


Cheryl @ Mommypants September 9, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Since I live in the land of crazy fires, I know that sky all too well. Glad you’re all okay, but even happier you had cocktails to fortify you.


Stacia September 9, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Too bad a pitcher or three of Pimm’s can’t put out the fire, too. So scary. Glad to hear you are safe, though, and hoping for more rain up your way.


Privilege of Parenting September 9, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Hey KW, firstly sending all good wishes for the safety of all threatened by the fire.

As for Pimm’s cup, thanks for this illumination—I like tennis alright, but never knew why deep in the back of my mind I associated this drink with people in white pants (it was tennis, not ruling out Gatsby, not ruling out the mental hospital either).

Somehow I expected it to be bitter, like Compari that I have never yet acquired the taste for (rather go with Lillet). Since we’re blessed with no fire at the moment (but always at risk this season in LA), I might have to earn my Pimms on the court :)


Maria September 9, 2010 at 8:56 pm

With pictures like that AND a phone call from a running husband, the question begs to be asked: how many pitchers of Pimm’s did you all consume? ‘Cause judging from those pictures in the news, I’m thinking, a lot.

Glad to know Mother Nature threw you all a bone and sent in some rains…Here’s to hoping you all make it through the dry season safe and sound….


Contemporary Troubadour September 9, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. I hope today’s news is better than yesterday’s for everyone out there.

As for the Pimm’s Cup, that sounds like excellent fortification.


Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities September 10, 2010 at 5:32 am

Medicinal fortification. Absolutely. I’m so glad you are okay. Please keep us all posted and stay safe.


Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday September 10, 2010 at 5:51 am

This is the 2nd pimm’s cocktail recipe I’ve read this week. I really need to try this stuff!


Liz September 10, 2010 at 7:03 am

How, oh how, you amazing woman, do you manage to write wittily (not a real word??) about FIRE and COCKTAILS and make it all make sense?????? Damn.


Phoo-d September 10, 2010 at 7:36 am

I’m so glad that the fires have not come near you! I’ve been following along worried about both you and Jen this week. I lived in San Diego during a few very bad fire seasons and know the dread that comes from ashes floating through a smoke filled sky. Times like that definitely call for a Pimm’s cup! One random note- if the smoke was really bad at your house be sure to check the air filters in your cars. Mine was totally black after a week of fires. xoxoxo


Paula September 10, 2010 at 8:34 am

Your picture of the smoke is downright scary. We are on vacation in the Northwest at the moment and rather out of touch with the news. Seeing your picture makes it all real. Glad you are OK.


Michelle September 10, 2010 at 9:15 am

Wow. That’s some intense smoke. Very spooky.


Christine LaRocque September 10, 2010 at 4:27 pm

My God, I would be paralzyed in fear. I hope things are still headed in the right direction – which to me is OUT. Thinking of you…even though this comment comes a wee bit late.


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