James Cook Pimm's

Rose, the matron and owner of the small private psychogeriatric hospital in Wellington, New Zealand that my mother managed (and which I eventually ended up living in and working as the cook for two years), introduced my mum to the delights of the James Cook Hotel's lunch buffet in the early 1970s, soon after the hotel opened.

Together with other staff from the hospital, they both went there regularly, and it wasn't long before I was invited to come with them...even though I was still in secondary school.

The first time involved my mother writing a long, elaborate note asking for me to be excused so I could attend a family funeral. After a number of imaginary relations had prematurely kicked the bucket, the notes became shorter and got directly to the point: "Please excuse Michael as I need him to be with me this afternoon."

Fifty years on, I'm thrilled to see that the James Cook still gets the four-star rating it richly deserves. I hope they still do their sumptuous buffets. I haven't seen such a spread on offer ever since, even though I often just gorged on the breaded fish and tartare sauce, which was offered as a starter.

It's also where I tried my first Pimm's cocktail. Though I can't guarantee that this is their exact recipe, it's pretty close.

When I used to hold Pimm's parties, I'd make individual drinks in pint glasses - it saved me from having to bartend for reasonable stretches of time - but you can use this recipe to make any sized glass or jug...or even a punch bowl.

Makes as much as you want it to make!


ice cubes


Pimm's No. 1 Cup

cucumber slices

orange slices

lemon slices

other fruit (I often use nectarines and strawberries)

lemonade, chilled

tonic water, chilled



Fill a glass three-quarters full with ice.

Add just enough gin to reach quarter of the way up the glass. In the photo, it looks like I've added too much - but I'm compensating for the unusual shape of the glass.


Add enough Pimm's to fill it to the halfway point (again, I'm compensating for the shape of the glass).


Add your fruit. Cucumber, orange, and lemon slices are all mandatory, but I like to add some sweet fruits as well. Some people add a sprig of mint. I prefer it without.


Top the glass up with a 50/50 mix of chilled lemonade and tonic water. Pop in some straws and give the fruit and ice a gentle poke and a swizzle.

And sip the taste of summer!


Any questions? You can use the comments form at the bottom of the page.

Did you know?

You'll find recipes at the back of all the books in the Send for Octavius Guy series:

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