rye whiskey, social hour, tom macy, cocktail, classic cocktail

Gimlet

Recipe

  • 2 oz gin

  • ½ oz lime juice

  • ¾ oz simple syrup

  • 2 lime "eighths" (¼ of a lime cut in half)

 

In a shaker, muddle the lime wedges in simple syrup. Add gin, lime juice, and fill with ice.  Shake for 8-10 seconds and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.  Or serve up if you prefer.  Garnish with a lime wheel.

 

 

If you make a Gimlet, let me see!  Tag a photo with #socialhourcocktails on Instagram.

Overview

The best way to make a Gimlet depends on your point of view. What’s indisputable is that it is a mixture of gin, lime, and sugar.  From there it's a question of what you value more: authenticity or deliciousness.

 

The oldest Gimlet recipes call for Rose's Lime Juice, a preserved lime cordial made from lime concentrate and high fructose corn syrup.  It tastes as gross as it sounds, which is why most contemporary bartenders make “fresh” Gimlets with fresh lime juice and simple syrup.   Some purists object to this version as merely a gin sour, and maintain that unless Roses’s is used, it’s not a Gimlet at all.  Then there's a third faction that attempts to bridge the gap by making lime cordial from scratch.

 

Having tried each version in a multitude of configurations, including and several lime cordial recipes, I’ve arrived at my favorite recipe below.  It is the Ulitmate Gimlet.

 

Homemade Lime Cordial:

The original Rose's Lime Juice surely tasted better than it does today, so making lime cordial from scratch with real ingredients is probably the best nice way to experience the Gimlet’s original flavor profile.   

 

Most DIY lime cordial recipes involve making lime oleo saccharum - lime peels macerated in sugar - and combining it with fresh lime juice.  The ratio of sugar and lime juice can be adjusted to taste, which naturally will affect how much cordial you need to use in the drink.  

 

  • 10 limes - for peels and juice

  • 1 cup sugar

 

Method

  • Peel the limes, reserving the fruit, and combine the peels with the sugar in a closed container.  Make sure all the peels are coated or covered in sugar.

  • Let sit for up to 6 hours or even overnight, agitating occasionally, until the sugar is moistened and partially dissolved.  This is oleo-saccharum.

  • Juice the peeled limes to get 1 cup of juice.   Combine the juice with the oleo-saccharum and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved.  Strain out the lime peels.  Refrigerate.

Gimlet Variations & Relatives

Gimlets with lime cordial - either Rose’s or homemade - are fairly standalone cocktails that don’t lend themselves to many other configurations (though you could certainly swap in a different spirit and see how that works out).  However, the Fresh Gimlet recipe above is arguably the greatest cocktail template that ever was.  That’s not hyperbole talking.  Just one or two simple tweaks separate this drink from a myriad of time-honored classics, many of which are the progenitor of a cluster of variations of their own. 

 

For example, if you muddle some mint into it, you have a Southside.  Add a few slices of cucumber to that and it’s an East Side.  Change the lime juice to lemon and put it in a tall glass with some soda water and it’s a Tom Collins.  Keep the lemon, put it in a rocks glass with crushed ice and drizzle some blackberry liqueur over the top and you have a Bramble.  Stick with lemon, swap out the simple syrup for honey syrup and it’s a Bee’s Knees.  

Bee's Knee's

Shake and serve straight up . 

 

Lime Cordial Verison

   

I still prefer my Gimlet recipe, but here is some advice if you want to go thee traditional lime cordial route. 

  

  • 2 oz gin

  • 1¼ oz (or to taste) Rose’s lime juice or homemade lime cordial (see below)

 

Combine and shake.  Serve up or on the rocks

 

The Gimlet Story

The Gimlet emerged in Britain towards the end of the 19th century.  The popular story is that it was invented by sailors when they opportunistically mixed gin with Rose’s Lime Juice.  Drinking on ships was a common activity and Rose’s, or some other form of lime juice, was required by law to be given to sailors to prevent scurvy, a particularly nasty disease caused by a vitamin C deficiency.

 

However, as Janet A. Zimmerman observes in this article, as neat and tidy as this origin story is, examining the facts calls some things into question.  First off, Rose’s Lime Juice, which was launched by Lauchlin Rose in 1867, was sold in glass bottles and advertised as a health product. This suggests that it was conceived as a soft drink intended to target the general public, not sailors on ships.  Furthermore, one of the selling points of the product was that the lime juice was preserved with sugar rather than the more conventional alcohol.  So he was likely looking to make something it marketable to teetotalers, as the temperance movement was in full swing at the time.   

 

Another problem is most British sailors drank rum.  Lots of it.  In fact, the Royal Navy continued issuing rum rations to sailors until 1970!   The last dram was given out on July 31st, which henceforth has been known as Black Tot Day.   Gin was reserved for officers.  Here's where things start to align again. The earliest Gimlet recipes call specifically for Plymouth Gin (gin made in Plymouth, England) and as it would have it, the Brits had a large Navy base in Plymouth.  So there's conventional speculation from trustworthy folks like Zimmerman and David Wondrich that British Naval officers likely had a hand in throwing early Gimlets together, only perhaps not on a ship.   I subscribe to this version, it keeps the drink's maritime connection alive.  

 

The origin of the name?  There are two presiding theories.  One it is was named after a small T-shaped tool called the gimlet which was used to bore holes into things, and could have been used to tap liquor casks. 

 

The other story is it was invented by British Royal Navy Surgeon Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Gimlette as a way to get sailors to take their an anti-scurvy medication.   Nice idea, though there’s nothing about it in his obituary and it seems like a stretch that sailors would have resisted taking straight lime juice for any reason.  I’d drink just about anything to prevent scurvy.   I prefer story #1.

 

The Gimlet didn't appear printed in a cocktail book until around the 1920s, Harry MacElhone's ABCs of Mixing Cocktails acknowledges it's popularity in the Navy as well.   The drink wasn’t very well known in the United States until after prohibition.  It was prominently featured in Raymond Chandler’s 1953 novel The Long Goodbye, which upped the drink’s profile.  

 

As the 1980s and 90s approached, vodka began to make it's way into Gimlet recipes, as vodka tends to do. And in the early 21st century blasphemous bartenders  - like your truly - started replaced Rose's Lime Juice with fresh lime.  The Gimlet has worn many faces over its lifetime and continues to.  However you prefer to make yours, one thing is certain: this is one cocktail the sun will never set upon.

 

For a deeper look at the Gimlet from every angle, check out this wonderful article from Troy Patterson on Slate.com.

Vodka Gimlet

Like the Martini, vodka has become such a common replacement for gin in the Gimlet that many think assume was always made that way. Not so, but if you want to make a Vodka Gimlet, simply replace vodka for gin in any of the recipes on this page.  That's it!

 
 
 

These just a few of the established well-known drinks, but the possibilities are truly endless.   Since gin mixes well with just about anything and the sour recipe in general is so ubiquitous, this drink is like a universal blood donor that works in just about anything you throw at it, be it other fruits, vegetables, herbs, citrus juices, liqueurs or spirits.  I have used the Fresh Gimlet as a foundation for more of my personal original recipes than probably any other cocktail. 

 
 

On Rose’s Lime Juice

Rose’s Lime juice is a translucent light green and has a discordant blend of flavors ranging from cloyingly sweet to sharply sour to oxidized lime. I think Toby Cecchini said it best: "it's to limes as Spam is to steak".  The oxidized taste will increase depending on how old the bottle is, so check the expiration date and make sure the liquid is a pale green, not brownish green. Despite the majority of old Gimlet recipes calling for it, I find the Gimlets with Rose's to be mediocre at best, and downright and foul at worst.  Still, there's something to be said for trying a drink in its natural habitat (and then never again).  Opinions on the best ratio on differ.  Some say it should be 50/50,  but I find the one above to be more balanced.

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tom@socialhourcocktails.com Brooklyn, NY

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