“It’s Pimm’s O’Clock!”

In order to carry on with the British theme, along with the fact that I will be 21 in 10 days, Pimm’s No. 1 Cup seemed like a good next topic.

Besides Guinness, it was my beverage of choice throughout my whole English study-abroad experience.  Probably because it’s just so. damn. classy.  It is a “fruit cup” liquor drink because it is meant to be mixed with fruit into a number of different cocktails.

  • The standard, English-style, is mixed with lemonade
  • You can bulk up the alcohol content by mixing it with champagne
  • You then add strawberries, oranges, lemons, mint leaves, and cucumber pieces.

It is the favorite drink of University receptions, summer parties, and quintessentially-British sporting events such as Wimbledon. My first drink of Pimm’s was indeed on the cloister lawn of Magdalen College during our welcome reception, promptly followed by 4-5ish more of said drinks at dinner.

James Pimm first made this now-famous drink in 1823.  It is based on gin, and can I just say, that whoever decided that they should make a liqueur from the juniper plant must have already been drunk.  I accidentally ordered Pimm’s on ice once (minus the lemonade and fruit), and it was not the tasty beverage I was anticipating but instead just plain, slightly gross gin with a unique flavor as a result of extra liquors and herbs added to enhance flavor and “digestion”.

The gin-based Pimm’s is Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, and in the past there has also been a No. 2 Cup, No. 3 Cup, and so on until No. 6 Cup, with varying liquor bases.  Currently only No. 1 Cup (gin), No. 3 Cup (now called Pimm’s Winter, brandy-based), and No. 6 Cup (vodka-based) are sold, but No. 1 is by far the most common and the only one I have ever actually seen.

I was told by an Oxford professor that nowadays only 6 people ever know the full recipe of the various liquors and herbs at once – however, he had this slightly annoying habit of making up interesting facts to see if anyone was actually smart enough to call out his bullshit.  And he was so damn knowledgeable about EVERYTHING that we usually believed him.  I searched around on the Internets for an answer to the validity of his claim and couldn’t find any evidence of such secrecy within the Pimm’s Company, so I do suspect that this was just another of Dr. A’s “I’m-just-testing-your-critical-thinking-skills” games.  But, if anyone knows more, I would love a comment about it!

I leave you now with a recipe for PIMM’S NO. 1 CUP, my personal favorite. (Straight from the Pimm’s website!)

1 part Pimm’s No. 1
3 parts chilled lemonade
Mint leaves, cucumber, strawberries, and orange pieces

What’s Coming Soon:

The tastiest addition yet!

“There stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore”

This summer I had the great honor of being able to study abroad at Oxford University. Of course with this sort of trip, you always get the same standard questions from friends and family upon your return to the good ole states:

Did you eat fish and chips? – Well, duh, yes
Did you mean the Queen? – Well, duh, no
Does it really look like Hogwarts? – Yup!
What was your favorite place that you saw? – Okay, okay, this one I can actually answer…

And my answer is always a tie between 2 places – Snowdonia National Park (which has enough unrealistically beautiful sights to match its unrealistically magical name) & the Tower of London.

To me the Tower of London was a highlight of my trip because I think the gory history associated with it is pretty interesting, and it had a lot of other interesting surprises. First off, the Tower of London is not even on a hill nor is it a tower! I also was not expecting to see a 530-carat diamond that day, but as it turns out the Tower is where the Crown Jewels are displayed when the royal family isn’t using them for dress-up. And I also saw a flock of ravens that are officially enlisted in the Royal Army, which is something you don’t see everyday.

The Tower Ravens are probably some of the most spoiled birds on earth – there is an elite Yeoman Warder (the official guards of the Tower of London) whose sole job is to take care of the resident ravens. He is known as the Ravenmaster, and after visiting London I have decided to add this job to my list of potential future careers (sadly, it doesn’t seem very likely). The ravens live off a carefully maintained diet of fresh fruit, cheese, and select raw meat, and have snacks of blood-soaked biscuits. Each lives about 40 years, and is individually named and have enlistment papers from the Royal Army.  They are unofficial guards of the Tower of London and in order to maintain the highest quality of ravens in the Tower, they can even be dismissed from the Tower for “conduct unbecoming a Tower resident” – i.e. when they attack tourists or “leave their posts on the Tower”.

Tours of the Tower were led by Yeoman Warders, also known as Beefeaters, and our particular guide was full of interesting facts about English history, and lots of jokes about America. He introduced the Ravens as such:

“It is a legend that if there are ever any less than 6 ravens living in the Tower of London, the crown will fall and Britain with it. Now, of course we Brits aren’t so superstitious as to believe that sort of rubbish, so we keep 8 ravens here just to be safe.”

And so there are always at least 6 ravens in the Tower. The origin of the myth is unclear, but there are several hypotheses.

1.  The leading idea is that they had always lived on Tower Hill – a hill near the Tower of London’s castle walls and the actual place of most executions attributed to the Tower.  Supposedly, the ravens were drawn to the area by the smell of blood from executions of political prisoners. They slowly began to inhabit the Tower during the reign of King Charles II (1660-1685). Apparently they caused so much trouble for the astronomy telescope there that the resident astronomist asked to have the Ravens removed, but harming a raven is bad luck so the observatory was moved instead.

2.  After the London Fire, ravens were rampant in the city as scavengers and people began harming them out of spite. Charles II believed that it was a bad omen to exterminate all the ravens so he had 6 moved to the Tower in order to protect them and to prevent all ravens from being killed in London, and they have stayed ever since.

3.  However, it is likely that the myth of the ravens originated much sooner during Victorian times to dramatize the grisly history of the site. The first real depiction of Tower ravens wasn’t until late 1800s, and it is interesting to point out that the era leading up to this time was when Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” was published and ravens were becoming trendy pets to have in Western high society.

No matter the origin of the superstition, it is clear that the ravens are now a fully fledged part of the folklore of the Tower of London, having served as unofficial spotters for enemy planes during The Blitz of World War II, raising awareness of wildlife conservation issues, and entertaining the countless tourists who visit the site every day (like myself, who spent a solid 20 minutes trying to coax one of those stately ravens from a nearby tree with a Wheetabix bar, while my friends pretended not to know me from a sufficiently far distance.  Needless to say that living off their royal diet of fresh meat and bloody biscuits meant they didn’t really take a liking to my offering, which is essentially horse food marketed for human health nuts).

What’s Coming Soon:

In keeping with the current British theme, this is a fun one for sure.