Cocktail Idea: the “Pith Helmet”

Savoury, refreshing and oh so good!

From the moment I laid eyes on the recipe for this cocktail while perusing through the book “Bitters” by Brad Parsons, I knew I had to tackle it and a beautiful August long weekend here in Calgary seemed like the perfect occasion.

Although this requires a bit of prep, the results are well worth it! The final product comes out like a more savoury version of the classic Pimm’s Cup, with a refreshing hit of cucumber and an intriguing spice added by the cracked black peppercorns. The celery and Angostura bitters also add a very nice savoury note. Sipping this at my campsite under the warming afternoon sun with a good book was the perfect recipe for a relaxing afternoon. I also plan to experiment with the leftover basil lemon simple syrup which is absolutely divine!

Without further ado here is the drink:

Basil-Lemon Simple Syrup

First you have to prep the lemon-basil syrup. This sounds complicated but is actually very easy. The syrup can be made in advance and will keep in the fridge for an entire month afterwards. To make this delicious nectar, simply add 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water, 12 basil leaves and the zest of 2 lemons to a medium sauce pan. Bring the ingredients to a simmer, stirring slowly until the sugar has dissolved. At the first sign of a boil take the syrup off of the heat and allow to cool down (we left it for 20 minutes in the fridge). Once cooled strain the syrup (which will now be a vibrant yellow/green colour) into a mason jar or any kind of glass vessel and chill down in the fridge. Presto! You’ve got your simple syrup.

The Pith Helmet

Ingredients (per 1 drink)

6 black peppercorns

1/2 ounce lemon-basil syrup

3 cucumber slices

1 ounce london dry gin (You can use bombay or beefeater if you want to keep it simple. If you want something special try Old Raj or Bulldog)

1 ounce Pimm’s No.1 Cup

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

2 dashes celery bitters

High quality tonic water, such as Fever Tree or Boylan’s


Lightly crack the peppercorns using a mortar and pestle

Transfer the peppercorns to a shaker along with the lemon-basil syrup and cucumbers

Muddle those ingredients together

Fill the shaker halfway with ice, then add the gin, pimm’s, lemon juice and bitters.

Shake until chilled then pour into a highball glass filled with ice.

Top with tonic and garnish with a basil leaf or cucumber slice


There you have it, a delicious new cocktail idea for those looking to tread off the beaten path. Again this is a bit of work but it turned out beautifully. And of course all of the ingredients (except for cucumber, etc) are available at Vine Arts Wine and Spirits = ) . We even carry the Fever Tree Tonic, which will change your life, and gin and tonics forever. The leftover basil-lemon simple syrup is a great addition to a gin and tonic or to a martini.





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