Even if you can't get to London to cheer on Team USA at the Olympics, you can still celebrate with a bit of British flare.
Between the steadily growing number of English brews available in suburban bars and liquor stores and the push to popularize Pimm's No. 1 among stateside cocktail enthusiasts, no one need go thirsty as they watch the pageantry of the opening ceremonies or count Michael Phelps' Olympic medals.
Bass Ale lays claim as many people's introduction to British beers, but more ales and lagers from the UK have been finding their way to our shores. Sure we might have complained that the Brits taxed our tea, but that hasn't stopped us from wanting to drink their ale.
Young's, Boddington's, Newcastle and Samuel Smith's also are familiar labels in the beer aisle. And with a little searching you can find pale ales, stouts and brown ales from breweries including Cains, Black Sheep, Old Speckled Hen and Wychwood.
Beer drinkers have been gravitating toward English-style beers for a long time.
"American craft beers, at the beginning, what they were trying to do was to be like English beers. Beer drinkers are coming back to those," says Matt Naughton, the beer expert at Dobby's World-Wide Liquors and Wines in Palatine. Naughton says he has about 30 varieties of English beers on the shelves.
If beer is not your beverage of choice, pour a hard cider, like Strongbow or Crispin or Dry Blackthorn, or wander over to the spirits aisle for a bottle of Pimm's No. 1.
Pimm's No. 1 -- a dry, herbal-infused liqueur akin to Campari -- first came on the scene back in the early 1800s. At one time, there were six commercially available versions of the spirit, but only No. 1, the original, remains in production.
Pimm's is enjoying a bit of a renaissance, thanks to mentions on TV shows such as "Boardwalk Empire." But for Jody Lay of Batavia, that renaissance can't happen quickly enough.
"I was hoping I'd see it more," says Lay, a former suburban sommelier who served Pimm's Cup cocktails at the culinary temple called the James Beard House in New York City back in 2008. She says suburban bars and restaurants have been slow to introduce it, and she has searched out local liquor stores to find it.
Pimm's Cup is the most popular way to enjoy Pimm's No. 1, and summer -- and by extension the Summer Olympics -- is the best time to enjoy a Pimm's Cup.
"Yes, Pimm's is the drink of English summer, a period that lasts between 15 minutes and two weeks when the rain clears and the temperature rises above 70," affirms former Illinois resident Jon Gardner, who now lives in Jolly Ol' England.
On its own, Pimm's No. 1 is rather dry and rough, so it begs for mixers. Hence, the drink Pimm's Cup.
"You mix it with lemonade, which is not the U.S. understanding of lemonade but rather a drink closer to Sprite or 7UP," Gardner said. "It also calls for sliced citrus fruit, strawberries, mint leaves and cucumbers. The cucumber is essential."
Lay makes it this way: Pour 1 cup of Pimm's No. 1 and about 1 quart of lemonade (what we Americans count as lemonade) into a pitcher. Add slices from half a cucumber and about five fresh strawberries, quartered or sliced. Let that soak for an hour or overnight.
Serve over ice topped with a splash of lemon-lime soda.