The Emperor's New Clothes (03/06/12)

We're all meant to love Pimm's, but Simmy Richman, picking the mint from his teeth, thinks otherwise

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Though the weather will do its merry best to flummox all attempts at forecasting, there are still a few things one can safely predict about the Great British Summer: sporting hopes will be raised and dashed; airports will be chaos; wasps will spoil all attempts at al fresco dining, and the sound of jugs of Pimm's No 1 Cup gently clinking will be heard from the manicured lawns of Wimbledon to the picnic rugs of Henley and Glyndebourne.

Though initially associated with a chain of oyster bars for City gents, the drink that James Pimm perfected in 1840 to wash down shellfish has, in more recent times, become seen as a traditional seasonal indulgence. And at up to £20 a jug (Wimbledon), it is probably just as well that the British weather does not always shine as the bells of "Pimm's o'clock" chime.

But it is not just its price that earns Pimm's No 1 its place in the Emperor's New Clothes hall of shame. Because while the brand's 1980s TV ads recommended that all it took was "Pimm's, lemonade, ice and a slice" to create a "drink that's long on style", the standard jug of Pimm's since has taken to resembling a salad bar, with any old scraps of fruit and veg left lying around seen as fair game for this most "traditional" of British beverages.

And while its Alexander Armstrong-fronted adverts went to great pains to play on those "Hooray Henry" associations, the truth is that, since 2006, the Pimm's brand has been owned by Diageo, a company whose array of Dutch subsidiaries has enabled it to transfer billions of pounds away from Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs.

Ahead of this weekend's jubilee celebrations, Waitrose (and it would be Waitrose, wouldn't it?) reported that sales of these £14-a-pop bottles with the "secret recipe known to only six people", had risen by 260 per cent. That's an awful lot of people who are prepared to swallow the myth that drinking fruit punch is the height of sophistication. Which it undoubtedly is – if your idea of sophistication is staggering around with bits of mint stuck between your front teeth while not being able to focus because your host has miscalculated that 1:3 ratio.

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