“ Brand: Sainsbury's / Type: Cocktail „
On a hot summer's day, there's nothing like Pimms ... or is there?
Notwithstanding the fact that we haven't had terribly many of those hot sunny days this year, Pimms has a special summery place in my heart. It's not cheap though - so Sainsbury's own-brand version piqued my interest. Slightly. Normally these things are terrible - see any number of examples; the own-brand version of Bailey's, for example - they tend to taste approximately similar to the original, but there's always something missing. It all feels a bit unsatisfying for the sake of a couple of quid on the price.
This, happily, is much better. In fact, in a blind test (which I'd be only too happy to conduct!), I reckon there's every chance I'd struggle to pick the real thing, which isn't something I could say about most of these products.
The physical resemblance, of course, is pretty substantial - but the similarities, once you get past the packaging and gingery-golden tint to the drink itself, run more than skin deep. Perhaps we've been brainwashed, but Pimms is pretty much summer in a glass - deep and fruity, sweet and refreshing, with a flavour that you can't quite place, but certainly can't get enough of. It's a winner - and this is almost spot-on as a tribute to the Big Daddy of summer drinking. It's got that same blend of fruity flavours, none too dominant, but together creating something wonderfully mellow, relaxing and delicious.
The preparation - with lemonade and fresh fruits and mint - is exactly the same, and the price (£10 a bottle) is much more appetising. Summer seems an awful long way off, but when it eventually comes around again, I'll be stocking up on this.
When Sainsburys launched their new drink Pitchers in the summer last year, Diageo, the makers of Pimm's got a little bit upset. Why you may ask? Well Sainsburys starting producing a drink that looked and tasted just like Pimm's, and they starting selling it at a cheaper price. The bottom line is that Pimm's has monopolised the market since the year dot, and they took none too kindly to Sainsbury's attempt to muscle in on their pitch. Sainsbury's launched Pitchers as a gin based summer drink....which is exactly what Pimm's has been serving up to us since 1840. So did Pimm's makers Diageo have a right to be worried and start galvanising their legal team into action against Sainsburys, or have they got nothing really to worry about? Read on.....
For those of you who haven't tried either Pimm's or Pitchers - it's basically a cocktail mixer with a base of gin and red vermouth flavoured with quinine, lemon and various herbs and spices. You mix it with either lemonade, ginger ale, tonic or soda water (1 part spirit/liqueur to 3 parts mixer) - whatever floats your boat.
Delicious though it is, Pimm's is not a cheap drink. A 75cl bottle of Pimm's No 1 will set you back around £14.00. I guess Pimm's thought they had a monopoly on their beverage as they were the only contender to the market for the last 170 years, with an alleged recipe that was a closely guarded secret only known to six people. Sadly for Pimm's, Mr Sainsburys turned detective, discovered all the secret ingredients and brought his own version out at a cheaper price of around £10.00. Pimm's (and Diageo) had a good run with their 170 year old monopoly and you can't blame Sainsbury's for launching something similar. That said, Pimm's weren't going to take an assault on their brand lying down....
~*~ PROSECUTION OR CORDIAL SETTLEMENT? (groan) ~*~
Diageo therefore got into a bit of a huff with Sainsburys shortly after it launched Pitchers. Their claim was that Pitchers was breaking the law via a copyright infringement on both the product and the packaging of Pimm's. It's true, Pitchers does bear a strong resemblance both in taste and packaging to Pimm's. Sainsburys have used the same bold red lettering and a similar pseudo gold coat of arms as you find on a bottle of Pimm's. The bottles are shaped the same and the colouring is remarkably similar. In fact, placed side by side, a shopper not paying too much attention would be unable to tell them apart....which I guess was all part of Sainsburys cunning plan.
Diageo had too choices - put up or shut up. The horns of their dilemma were that they couldn't really afford to get too stroppy with the supermarket, or shout too much as Sainsburys would just refuse to stock Pimm's thereby creating a massive hole in Diageo's sale revenue. In the end Diageo rolled over and the whole thing was settled reasonably amicably with Sainsburys agreeing to change the colouring of their packaging from gold to orange and to make the Sainsburys logo more apparent on the label.
If you're interested in the whole legalities of this, and other supermarket copy-cat products, there's an interesting article at:- http://stuartsmithsblog.wordpress.com/2009/08/18/
~*~ PALATABLE AND POTENT ~*~
I don't drink much alcohol, as I don't like really the taste. However, I always make an exception if someone is making a jug of Pimm's. It's extremely moorish - you can never have just one glass. For me a celebration is synonymous with a glass of Pimm's. Christmas, birthdays or any large gathering are usually accompanied by a jug of Pimm's in my family. However, with Pitchers being so much cheaper than Pimm's we can now enjoy it a lot more often, and it doesn't have to be a special treat anymore.
Please note that Pitchers tastes 'orrible on its own and you should always serve it diluted with either lemonade, ginger ale, soda or tonic. The recommended serving is 1 part Pitchers to 3 parts lemonade (ginger ale, soda or tonic water). Its best served in a tall glass or half pint mug, so that it makes a nice long refreshing drink.
Pitchers has lovely spicy smell - it's sweet and syrupy with undertones of vanilla and nutmeg. The smell of the gin in the drink is not particularly noticeable; in fact there's not much discernable alcoholic aroma.
Undiluted Pitchers is a rich amber brown colour. Once you add the mixer (I tend to go for lemonade every time), the amber brown mixture becomes slightly paler and more golden looking. As you pour the mixer into the jug or glass a rather satisfying layer of pale cream froth starts to appear which will lace the top of the glass or jug.
Taste wise, it's as fruity and sweet as you would expect, with citrus flavourings to the fore. You can taste a hint of the gin, but it's the fruitiness of the drink that is most apparent. It's an extremely refreshing drink and one (or three) slip down a treat without you even realising. However, one word of warning - although it tastes as innocent and innocuous as a non-alcoholic fruit punch, it's surprisingly strong (25% vol) and one too many can lead to the need to lie down so the room stops spinning.... It's a rather potent beverage and to quote Monty Python "it has a kick on it like a mule". And in case you're wondering, it tastes exactly like Pimm's and I very much doubt I'd be able to taste the difference between a glass of Pitchers and a glass of Pimm's in a blind taste test.
~*~ PITCHER PERFECT ~*~
The best way to serve Pitchers is as follows:-
- Grab hold of a large jug and about six long glasses or half pint mugs
- Slosh a couple of inches of Pitchers into the bottom of the jug
- Chop up an orange, lemon, apple into slices (or strawberries or something more exotic like pomegranates if you're feeling extravagant)
- Peel some rind off a cucumber
- Pick a couple of sprigs of Mint or Borage
- Chuck all the fruit and veg into the undiluted Pitchers
- Top the jug up with lemonade (or tonic water or ginger ale) - roughly 3 parts to 1 part Pitchers (depending on how strong you want it)
- Add ice cubes and then pour into glasses
- Serve with a straw and a cocktail stirrer (so that you can fish out the fruit and eat it)
Sainsburys have several serving suggestions on their website as a nice twist to the classic serving suggested above:-
* The super fruity Pitchers - Blueberries, fresh orange segments, mint and pomegranate.
* British Country Garden Pitchers - Chopped gala apple, strawberries, blackberries and edible violet petals
* Tropical Pitchers - Pineapple, mango, papaya and cinnamon sticks.
* Pitchers Deluxe - Clementine segments, strawberries and pears topped up with Cava
~*~ PRICE AND PURCHASING ~*~
You can only buy Pitchers at Sainsburys of course. It's packaged in a clear glass bottle with a white, gold and red label around its middle and a gold lion shaped logo to the lid and label. It looks just like a bottle of Pimm's so beware if you're in a hurry or distracted...but the price should be a dead giveaway :o) Pitchers is sold at £11.49 for 70cl, whereas Pimm's is circa £14.00. However, one nice thing about Pitchers is that it's often on special offer (especially in the summer). I picked up a bottle for £7.66 last week.
Evidently Aldi do a Pimm's variant as well called Austins, which I haven't tried as this would necessitate a visit to an Aldi store (and I'd rather saw my right leg off with a rusty hacksaw and die a long lingering death from tetanus or gangrene). However, I've heard that Tesco do a version called Jeeves so I may well try that one soon too.
~*~ WORTH A PUNT? ~*~
Definitely....and in answer to my original question: "Did Pimm's makers Diageo have a right to be worried and start galvanising their legal team into action against Sainsburys?" - the answer is most definitely yes. Pitchers is very, very, very good Pimm's variant, and despite having been drinking Pimm's for many a year, I'd honestly say you'd be very hard pressed to tell them apart. Added to which Pitchers is priced a lot more reasonably than Pimm's. If you're the sort that likes a glass of Pimm's then you'd be a fool not to try Pitchers someday soon...especially when it's on special offer for under a tenner. If you have snobby guests hide the bottles well out of sight, and they'll never know they've been drinking Pitchers instead of the real McCoy :o)
~*~ FURTHER DETAILS ~*~
Suitable for vegetarians and vegans
Sainsbury's / Type: Spirits