Cocktail Hour: Rickeys and Gimlets and Tonics (oh my)

Gin gimletI know last week I promised Corpse Revivers, but that will have to wait a bit.  As I write this, I’m about to head to Boston (actually, by the time you see this, I’ll probably be on a plane back (Ed. Note, okay, so it’s Monday, but I have to say this Monday is deserving of cocktails)), so I didn’t have as much time to go grab ingredients and experiment, so you’re getting one of my standards.

Sometimes, when you’re making a cocktail, you want something super easy, or at least with few ingredients.  Maybe you want something that won’t fill up the dishwasher with tools.  And, in the summertime, you might want something refreshing.  That’s where these three drinks come in.  I like gin– I like the floral, herbal qualities of it– but you can easily make a vodka and tonic, or a vodka gimlet, or a vodka rickey.  So what are these drinks?

First, the rickey:  According to David Wondrich’s Imbibe, Colonel Joe Rickey came up with this drink as a refresher, and told everyone (really– across the country!) he knew to make it.  The original was made with whiskey, but it’s more popular now as a gin drink.  The recipe is simple:

Juice of half a lime

Gin (or whiskey) to taste (I use about 2 ounces)

Pour in a glass over crushed ice, and top with soda water.

Easy-peasy, right?  Though it includes fresh lime juice, you don’t need to shake, since you’re adding soda.  The rule of thumb:  shake if there’s juice, egg white, or dairy.  If there isn’t, or there’s soda involved, you don’t need to shake.

Gin and tonic is also easy– and has a bit of a story as well.  Tonic water contains quinine, which is used to prevent malaria.  The British navy added gin to make the then-bitter tonic water taste better.   Tonic water still contains quinine, but we don’t use it as medicine (more the pity), but it’s still a darn tasty drink on a hot summer day.  This one couldn’t be easier.  Don’t want to get out a shaker and a strainer? This is your drink.

In a rocks glass filled with ice, pour 2 oz gin and top with tonic water. Garnish with a lime wedge.

My very favorite (and the most contentious) is the gin gimlet.  It features Rose’s Lime Juice, a preserved lime juice (lime cordial) that was given to sailors to prevent scurvy.  Apparently, the British navymen added gin to the lime juice to make it taste better too, and the gimlet was born.

I was just at a bar in Boston and I ordered a gimlet.  The bartender asked me if I wanted it made with fresh lime juice.  I shook my head no– if I had ordered that, I’d essentially be ordering a gin Rickey (but without the soda).  Dale DeGroff, Gary Regan and Raymond Chandler agree: the gimlet must be made with Rose’s Lime Juice.  There’s an interesting debate on eGullet about the origins of the Gimlet and the use of Rose’s Lime Juice.  The consensus seems to be: fresh in any cocktail that isn’t a Gimlet.  Seems fair to me.  I buy the smallest bottle of Rose’s possible, and it lives in my refrigerator, pulled out only for gimlets.  For the love of Pete, please do not use it for daiquiris, margaritas, or any other drink that asks for fresh lime juice.  The flavor is very different!  If you want to make your own lime cordial at home, here’s a recipe that I’ll probably try at some point. The major downside to Rose’s is that it contains HFCS, which I’m sure the original lime cordials didn’t.  The point, really, is that your drink will taste different if you just use fresh lime juice!

For gin, pick up a London dry– leave the Hendricks for something where you’ll taste the subtlety.  My standard is Beefeater, and I use it in my gin gimlets as well.

In a rocks or highball glass, filled with ice, combine:

2 oz gin (or vodka)

1 oz Rose’s Lime Juice (lime cordial)

Lime wedge (for garnish)

Some folks shake this, some folks stir.  I stir.  If you want to shake, you can serve it up in a martini glass.  It is refreshing and a little different, and very.. Mad Men.  This is, after all, in its vodka form (no doubt influenced by the American fascination with Russia and growing popularity of vodka at the time), Betty Draper’s favorite drink.

Alright, this Friday?  It’s Derby– so of course, it’s time for Mint Juleps.  I have my Julep cups ready, do you?