When Art’s cousin Baz and his friend Lyndsay from England came to stay with us last weekend, we spent their first Friday in Chicago walking through the Lakeview neighborhood. We ducked into Minibar to cool down with some cocktails, and conversation soon turned to our favorite British television shows.
My latest favorite is “Sheep Dog Trials,” which I discovered in reruns a few months ago. The title is pretty self-explanatory: British gentlemen guide their dogs (mostly border collies) through various sheepherding courses, the dogs steering the sheep in this direction or that. The show is incredibly soothing to watch. The competitions are set in dreamlike, lush country settings, and the show’s portly host practically whispers his play-by-play in melodic, proper English prose.
Part of what makes the show so sweet is the vernacular. In one competition, the genuinely disappointed host sighs slowly and deeply after a dog named Lark fails to direct a group of sheep through some drive gates. “That’s a right stroppy sheep,” he concludes, Pooh Bear-like, as the sheep darts in the opposite direction. Of all the new terms I have learned from the show, I explained to Baz and Lyndsay, I like “stroppy” the best.
After a round of drinks, our conversation turned to, well, our favorite British drinks. We all love Pimm’s Cup and were planning to make them for our Christmas in July party that weekend. Baz and Lyndsay also wanted to recreate a strawberry cocktail they discovered in a Sheffield bar. “We’ll call it the ‘Stroppy Sheep’!” Baz reckoned.
In the end, our Stroppy Sheep turned out to be a new take on Pimm’s Cup. We were all surprised to find that Pimm’s was out of stock at our local Binny’s. Instead of Pimm’s, Baz recommended Sloe Gin. The garnet-hued liquor is slightly less bitter than Pimm’s but still herbaceous and aromatic. We mixed our Stroppy Sheep as we would a classic Pimm’s Cup, with a couple new (to Art and me) garnishes thrown in.
Pimm’s Cup is usually associated with posh English garden parties, though it has been embraced more widely throughout England in the past few years. I like to think the Stroppy Sheep lives up to its name–a rambling American that shows up uninvited, shouts profanity, eats the flowers, and leaves the ladies swooning. We enjoyed ours alongside the main course, the “Grumpy Goat.”
Makes one drink
1 1/2 ounce Plymouth Sloe Gin
French sparkling lemonade
Strawberries, orange, cucumber (2 slices each)
Fresh mint leaves
Place the ice in a highball glass; add sloe gin and enough lemonade to nearly fill the glass. Garnish with fruits, cucumber, and mint leaves.