A Fruit Cup is a concentrated alcoholic drink mixer from which you make a “long drink”; that is, a tall drink, meant to be sipped slowly.
You pour a small amount of it into a glass, over ice, and then top up with a soft drink such as fizzy lemonade, or, mix with up in larger quantities in a pitcher. Often added to the glass or the pitcher are berries, slices of cucumber, slices of fruit such as apple, orange, lemon or lime, and herbs such as mint or borage.
The base of the Fruit Cup mixer is usually gin, but might be vodka or fortified wine. The base is flavoured with herbs, spices, fruit extracts or liqueurs, bitters, etc.
Fruit Cups are a classic summer drink in England, and are still very popular at summer social events particularly in southern England.
Fruit Cups were very fashionable in the early 1800s, when they were sold as having “health benefits.” Pubs would often make their own concentrate and have it as their “house” Fruit Cup. Householders would also make their own.
The first mass produced Fruit Cup appears to be Pimm’s Cup, based on the house Fruit Cup created by James Pimm at the Oyster Bar on Lombard Street, London.
Literature & Lore
“Only wines or ‘fruit cups’ had been drunk (Ed: in England) on social occasions before the (Ed: First World) war; with whisky reserved for sporting uses.” — Graves, Robert and Alan Hodge. The long week end: a social history of Great Britain, 1918 – 1939. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 1994.