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Summer party drinks

Jonathan Goodall

Summer parties thrive on Pimm's, but to get things off to a real swing why not try mixing a mojito or a margarita?

Fresh mojito cocktail on a garden table in summer
Try mixing a refreshing mojito as a Pimm's alternative this summer

There are few things more dispiriting on an early summer evening than a poorly mixed Pimm's – too weak, too warm, too bad. The original gin sling, it was first mixed in 1840 by James Pimm in his oyster bar in the City of London and, according to the label, is "still made to the original recipe which remains a closely guarded secret known only to six people."

But seeing as Pimm's was created primarily as an aid to digestion for well-fed City gents, it's safe to assume that its original strength was at least 40% alcohol. As recently as 1988 it was 31%, and today it's a mere 25%.

Visit our BBQ recipe section for delicious garden party food ideas

Cheat's Pimm's

This summer, as you sit in your garden contemplating the legacy from the latest batch of bankers, you might like to make your own "Cheat's Pimm's". It's stronger than the pre-mixed original and works out cheaper by the glass too. Just mix one part gin with one part red vermouth and a half part of orange curacao (maybe a shade less).

Dilute this mixture with about three parts lemonade or ginger ale with plenty of ice and garnish with the usual suspects – mint leaves, lemon, orange and cucumber slices with perhaps the odd strawberry if you're feeling racy. Bruise the mint in the jug first to release more flavour.

Make sure your gin is at least 40% alcohol for the required kick. I've never understood how Gordon Ramsay's passion for uncompromising quality led him to endorse Gordon's Gin at a mere 37.5%. Providing your gin is a sensible strength, use any brand you fancy because, once it's been mixed with all of the above, your palate won't be picking up on any subtle infusions of rose petals or angelica root.

Pimm's is, of course, as English as a rainy picnic. For something equally refreshing from sunnier climes try these jug-recipes from California and Cuba respectively.

Watermelon and basil margarita

  • 175ml tequila
  • 85ml triple sec
  • 24 fresh basil leaves
  • Half a ripe watermelon

De-seed and dice the melon then whizz it in a blender until liquid and frothy. Pour tequila and triple sec over the basil leaves in a sturdy glass jug and squash the leaves with a wooden spoon or pestle. Pour over the blitzed melon, stir well and serve with ice. If tequila isn't your thing, liquefied watermelon is lovely with vodka and white rum and works especially well with gin.


  • 1 part white rum
  • 3 parts soda water
  • 8-10 limes, quartered
  • 8-10 teaspoons of caster sugar
  • Lots of fresh mint leaves (at least 30)
  • Lots of ice, preferably crushed

Put the mint leaves, lime and sugar in a sturdy glass and 'muddle' them with a pestle or wooden spoon, crushing them together to release juices and oils. One teaspoon of sugar per lime is a guide, so tweak according to taste. Add plenty of ice, pour over the rum and top up with chilled soda. Stir and garnish with sprigs of mint.

Other fabulous summer drinks

White sangria
Strawberry wine cocktail
Pina colada
Elderflower gin
Frozen cocktails
Champagne cocktails

Grown-up soft drinks


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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