Lemonade, Shandy & Pimms

If you’re visiting Britain for the first time, you might be surprised when you first encounter lemonade.

In Britain and western Europe you’ll be served a sweet, clear liquid more akin to ‘Sprite’ or ‘Seven Up’, not the cloudy drink produced in the US.

That’s not to say that we haven’t been inventive in our use of said beverage, lemonade is a vital ingredient in shandy, and that staple of British garden parties – Pimms.


Shandy is effectively a fifty/fifty mix of beer and lemonade. The beer is usually ‘Bitter’ ale, but ‘Lager Shandy’ is often drunk, it being, as you might expect, a fifty/fifty mix of Lager beer and lemonade. I confess

I’ve never seen shandy served in Britain with a slice of lemon, like the illustration, but I couldn’t bring myself to waste good beer ordering a shandy to photograph!


Something that has become popular in recent years is a ‘Lager Top’ – that is a pint (or half if you insist) of Lager beer with the top inch or so replaced with lemonade. The sweetness of the lemonade helps to counteract the bitterness of the lager.  


For many, particularly the upper classes, Pimm’s is the essence of the all too brief British summer, jugs of Pimms are offered in bars and at the more prestigious sporting events – such as Wimbledon and the Henley Regatta.


Pimm’s was devised by James Pimm, who owned an oyster bar near the Bank of England in the City of London. In the 1840’s James Pimm developed his own variation of ‘Gin and Tonic’ in a small tankard, “No. 1 Cup”. Where a regular ‘G & T’ comprises Gin, and quinine in the form of Tonic Water, James Pimm’s cup included a secret mixture of herbs.

Within a few years the drink was sufficiently popular to allow Pimm to start producing the drink himself, including his own gin distillery. Pimm sold the business in 1865 and the company began introducing variations on the ‘No. 1 Cup” based on other spirits – including Whisky, Rum and Rye.

Today only the Number 1  and Number 6 cups (based on Gin and Vodka respectively) are still produced. A Brandy based Pimm’s was reintroduced in 2005 as “Pimm’s Winter Cup”.

A recipe for a classic summer Pimm’s is:

  • Pour 50 ml (2 ounces) of Pimm’s into your glass
  • Half fill the glass with the chopped fruit and cucumber and a few ice cubes.
  • Top up with Lemonade.
  • Shred a fresh mint leaf by hand and drop it into the mix.
  • Stir well and enjoy.