Taste: Spirits: Getting to Know Pimms
Ask owner Jonathan Makar, and he’ll tell you Snackbar doesn’t want to be a bar. To make his point, the Rittenhouse Square jewel box recently traded in its sprawling armchairs for straight-backs that say serious dining, not endless lounging. But those six seats at the narrow, right-angled bar remain coveted perches for Square — watchers, and it’s a safe bet that the restaurant’s row of outdoor tables will create the same too — hipster-for-Rouge happy-hour gauntlet they did last May.
The question of what it takes to be Rouge — not a bar, not a restaurant, simply your living room, if you lived this well — is one that is often on Makar’s mind, even when you find him holding court at one of his tables in the 20th Street sunlight before dinner service. New Snackbar GM Eddie Hackett (formerly of Gayle, Rae and, well, Rouge), whom you’ll see running the front of the house, is one part of the equation. The other could be the spot’s insta-classic Pimm’s Iced Tea.
This sweet-edged martini is a mainstay of Snackbar’s throwback cocktail menu. Pimm’s, the gin-based British liqueur that is its star, is exactly the type of old-fashioned spirit that’s suddenly infashion — but far more palatable to the cosmo crowd than even-more-fashionable rye or bourbon. Pimm’s Iced Tea was inspired by an exacting rendition of a Pimm’s Cup that chef Jonathan “Jonny Mac” McDonald sampled at New York’s premiere bartender’s bar, the Pegu Club. In Snackbar shakers, herbal Hendrick’s Gin updates the lemon-soda sugary-ness that gives the Pimm’s Cup its old-lady reputation. And the name? Slightly spicy Pimm’s has a murky iced-tea color, but mostly, “We just wanted it to sell,” McDonald says.
To make Snackbar’s Pimm’s Iced Tea, combine 2 ounces Hendrick’s Gin, 4 ounces Pimm’s No. 1 and the juice of half a lemon over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake well and strain into a 10-ounce martini glass. Top with Canada Dry ginger ale and garnish with diced cucumber.