Lime Cordial Adds a Refreshing Tang to This Great Summer Drink
The Gimlet is one talented cocktail. It can cool you down in hot weather. It carries a medicinal heritage (legend says that Britain’s Royal Navy developed it to fight scurvy). And it’s gained celebrity by association with writers Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Chandler — not to mention schlock-movie king Edward D. Wood, Jr.
The Gimlet wins points for versatility, too. It’s equally tasty served “up” or on the rocks. And although it’s traditionally made with gin, it also works well with vodka. You can serve it as a casual afternoon refreshment, as a cocktail before dinner, or at a chic evening function. Pretty amazing for a drink that requires only two ingredients.
Best of all, it has superb flavor. So let’s mix it up, shall we?
Recipe: Gimlet Cocktail
This drink’s characteristic flavor comes from Rose’s Lime Juice, a commercial lime cordial that you can buy at any grocery or liquor store. Rose’s is sweet (as are all cordials), with a flavor that’s not quite natural — but compelling nevertheless.
I’ve seen recipes that try to “improve” the Gimlet by replacing Rose’s with freshly squeezed lime juice and sugar. Fresh citrus usually improves a drink — but not this one. In fact, this is the only instance I can think of where it actually makes the drink worse.
You really need lime cordial. And while there are other lime-flavored commercial cordials out there that may (or may not) work in a Gimlet, why bother with anything but Rose’s? It’s available everywhere, and it works well.
I think this drink tastes best made with gin. But if you ask for a Gimlet in most bars today, they’ll probably make it with vodka. So if you want gin in your Gimlet, be sure to ask. And if you get a vodka gimlet by mistake? Well, it will have a touch less flavor, but it will still be a pretty good drink.
This recipe assumes that you’ll be serving the drink up (i.e., stirred with ice, then strained into a cocktail glass), but I also include instructions for serving it on the rocks. The recipe takes 5 minutes to prepare, and serves one.
- 2 ounces of gin (may substitute vodka)
- ~2/3 ounce Rose’s Lime Juice (see Notes)
- lime wheel for garnish (very optional, but attractive)
- Combine gin and Rose’s Lime Juice in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir vigorously until the drink is cold.
- Strain into a cocktail glass (preferably chilled).
- Or if you prefer to drink this on the rocks, strain into an ice-filled old-fashioned (rocks) glass.
- Garnish with lime wheel or wedge, if you choose.
- Even though there’s citrus in Rose’s Lime Juice, it’s a clear solution, so you should stir this drink rather than shake it. For more info on when to stir and when to shake, see Cocktail Basics.
- I like a 3:1 ratio of gin to Rose’s, and that’s reflected in my recipe. Others may like 4:1 (2 ounces gin to ½ ounce of Rose’s) or 2:1 (2 ounces gin to 1 ounce of Rose’s). I find the last one pretty sweet, but that’s me.
- Terry Lenox, a character in Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, liked equal parts of gin and Rose’s. Way too sweet! There’s a reason Chandler wrote fiction.
- Beefeater is my go-to gin for mixed drinks at the moment, so that’s what I use in a Gimlet. But any decent quality name-brand gin works well in this cocktail.
- If you use vodka, which brand should you choose? Well, all vodkas are flavorless (unless they have flavoring added), so the only difference among them is how well they’ve been filtered during their manufacturing process (filtering removes impurities that contribute a harsh quality to vodka — which some people mistake for “flavor”). The more expensive vodkas tend to be better filtered, and thus smoother. I usually use Smirnoff Vodka, which is good quality and modestly priced.
- Filmmaker Edward D. Wood, Jr. liked his gimlets with vodka. He also wrote adult novels, sometimes under the pseudonyms Telmig Akdov or Akdov Telmig (Vodka Gimlet spelled backwards).
- Ernest Hemingway featured Gimlets in "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber." Because this story was written in 1936 (back when vodka was largely unknown outside of Russia and eastern Europe), he presumably was referring to the gin-based version. But given Hemingway’s enthusiasm for all things alcoholic, he probably would have enjoyed a Vodka Gimlet, too.
- No one knows for sure where the Gimlet originated or how it got its name, but my favorite story involves Thomas D. Gimlette, KCB, who joined the British Royal Navy in 1879 as a surgeon and retired in 1913 as Surgeon General. According to Gary Regan’s The Joy of Mixology, Gimlette “induced his messmates to take lime juice as an antiscorbutic.” The lime juice was mixed with gin and sugar to make it more palatable. And the drink was served without a lime garnish, I’ll wager.
- BTW, the slang term “limey” attached itself to British sailors because of their lime juice habit. (Although in actuality they consumed more lemons than limes, because lemons contain much more vitamin C.)
- Those British sailors presumably drank their “gimlettes” sans ice. Yuck! This is a drink that is best served well-chilled.
- Although I usually take my Gimlet “up,” I sometimes prefer it on the rocks. Melting ice makes it last longer, which is great for a hot summer afternoon. It's a great drink no matter how you serve it.
- If you have some extra Rose’s Lime Juice on hand and want a nonalcoholic drink, here’s a recipe suggestion: Add 2 ounces of Rose’s to a tall (Collins) glass filled with ice cubes, top up with club soda or another bubbly water, and enjoy. A dash or two of bitters would be a pleasant addition.
The Summer Sippin’ Series Continues
“This Summer Sippin’ Series is turning out to be a fine idea,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs as she tasted her Gimlet. “Say, do we have any of those Cheese Straws left? They’d be great with this.”
“No, we pigged those down with our Bellinis,” I replied. “I’ll have to make some more snacks — we’ve got lots of cocktails coming up this summer.”
“I can’t wait for the Tiki drinks,” said Mrs K R, emptying her glass. “I haven’t had a Zombie since — so long I don’t remember!”
“Too many Zombies can do that to your memory,” I observed. “But patience; we’ve got other drinks coming up before then. Like next week. To celebrate the 4th of July, we’ll be doing the Betsy Ross Cocktail.”
“Sounds like you’ve got that post all sewn up,” Mrs K R beamed. “I’ll flag it on my calendar.”
“Maybe you should suck on another Gimlet,” I groaned in reply.
“I would if I could,” she sighed, glancing at her empty glass. “How do you get the bartender’s attention around here?”
I rose to mix another round.
“And check to see if we overlooked a Cheese Straw or two,” she said to my departing back.
But I know us. No chance of that.
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sound good... could i have a glass please.
Hi love2dine, it's great! And your glass is coming right up! ;-) Thanks for your comment.
I'll take mine on the rocks, I like it super chilled. I love how simple this is to make, no fuss especially when all you want is to cool off in the hot Summer.
So simple, and sounds good! I'll have to stock up my liquor cabinet in order to try one!
Hi Alessandra, it's a great cocktail no matter which way you like it! And it's the simplest cocktail I know how to make - so easy. And delivers great flavor. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Jeanne, I started off with one drink & stocked up for that. Then moved on to another, and bought more stuff. That way "stocking up" isn't too daunting. And it's so much fun trying new cocktails! Thanks for your comment.
I love those photos. The bubbles in the ice are so photogenic.
Hi Suzanne, drinks are fun to photograph! They can be a challenge, though. But they have such great colors - and the glasses can be interesting shapes - that there's quite a bit to play with. Thanks for your comment.
Lovely post. I would use Absolute in this cocktail, it's just a personal preference. I love your photos, what ice do you use? Looks brilliant! :)
Hi Marina, I like square cubes. And Absolute is nice and smooth! I'd join you in one of those. Thanks for your comment.
I'd make this simply to wow everyone with it's gorgeous colour:)
I am loving your cocktail recipes! Have bookmarked the blog and will be coming back for more great cocktails soon.
I love love your photos, they are so sharp and gorgeous! This would definitely be a refreshing drink during a hot day:-) Take care, Terra
I was told in an advertising class that I took 30 years ago, that ice cubes always contained subliminal messages. Don't know if that's true but something is sure making me want to try one of these. Your artistry is awesome and I think Mrs. Kitchen Riffs has the right idea. I could use a personal bartender, too!
Hi Tania, it's a pretty cocktail! But then most cocktails are pretty - which is one of the reasons why I like them. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Amanda, I'm delighted you're enjoying the cocktail posts - I'm certainly having a great time writing them. Thanks for taking time to comment.
Would it just not be the same with fresh lime juice instead? Inquiring palates want to know. ;)
Hi Terra, tripod + decent light = sharp photos. And yes, with all the hot weather we've been having, these are might appealing. Thanks for your kind words, and your comment.
Hi This is How I Cook, oh, I remember that! In fact I've even seen examples where things were air-brushed into the ice cubes. Or at least that's what people claimed - I think it might have been kinda like looking at ink blots! Thanks for commenting.
Hi Carolyn, it's odd, but it's really not the same at all. Rose's Lime Cordial has it's own taste - lime on steroids. It doesn't taste artificial, but it doesn't exactly taste like anything in nature, either. It's really good! If you want to use fresh lime juice, I'd recommend a Gin Rickey - gin plus lime juice in a tall glass filled with ice cubes, then top up with club soda or any kind of fizzy water. Thanks for your comment.
This looks absolutely stunning :D
You are making me make an 18th party palate menu :D
Choc Chip Uru
Beautiful! This is a fabulous cocktail. What great shots.
My list for the liquor store is getting longer and longer! I've seen Rose's lime juice but never knew what it was used for. Now I guess I need to give this a try because I love gin and I love lime! Thanks for the hint on not using real lime juice in place of Rose's. As always, your pictures are gorgeous but I have a question. Are those real ice cubes or fake? Another great post!
Hi Choc Chip Uru, you'll have an interesting coming-of-age party, for sure! Just don't sample all of the Summer Sippin' Series cocktails at one time. ;-) Thanks for your comment.
Hi Rosa, it is really a tasty cocktail. Thanks for your kind words, and your comment.
Hi MJ, when I want pictures where I don't want condensation on the cocktail glass in the photograph - which is often - I want an un-iced cocktail, so I use fake ice cubes. You can buy OK ones at Amazon. I read in a food styling book that the ones you see in advertising are hand made and cost quite a bit - at least $10, and usually much more, per cube! They also have the advantage of being clear. In most cities you can buy clear ice - you have to specifically ask for it, though, and you'll probably have to go to the ice making facility to pick it up. You can also make clear ice at home, but you don't always gets the results you want. I have some square silicone ice cube trays that produce great looking ice cubes - some of the time! The rest of the time the ice clouds. Anyway, Rose's is good stuff - but this is the only use for it that I can think of (well, maybe OK on ice cream, but I've never tried that - and it's awfully sweet). Thanks for your comment.
If it's associated with two of my favorite authors, then I need more gimlets in my life! Beautiful cocktail.
Hi Lisa, you do need more Gimlets in your life! Hemingway and Chandler (not to mention Ed Wood!) would approve. ;-) Thanks for your comment.
Wow!!! Fantastic pictures!! I love how clear and sharp they are it makes me just want to drink it!!
Hi, May I Have That Recipe, a lot of the fun - and most of the challenge - of food photography is figuring out how to showcase the essence of the dish. When you say the pictures make you "just want to drink it," that's exactly what I'm trying to do! Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.
Ohhhhhhhhhhh! This is THE BEST ever. I love these pictures (1st and 3rd most). My husband keep telling me to buy fake ice cubes to take pictures and I think yours are, right? All the sudden I'm getting thirsty. Your pictures are working! =) Thanks for the delicious cocktail recipes, too!
Hi Nami, listen to your husband! ;-) Fake ice is ideal when you don't want a cold drink to form condensation, or the liquid in a drink is clear - real ice can sometimes cause problems in both cases. Otherwise regular ice works fine (I suggest getting square-shaped ice cube trays, though - square ice looks nice in drinks). Thanks for your kinds words, and your comment.
Thanks for the info about the ice cubes! You also showed what a perfection you are. I never would have thought of clear vs. cloudy ice cubes. You're too much! :)
This is my husbands favorite drink. I love the picture.
Hi Words of Deliciousness, your husband has great taste! It's a really good drink. Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.
Hi MJ, my pleasure! Mrs KR is always tell me I'm too much, too, although I'm not sure if she means it the same way! ;-)
Really nice styling on the drink and your light setting is always perfect.
Hi Ray, thanks so much for your kind words, and for taking time to comment.
I wasn't thirsty before I started reading this post. Amazing photographs and I love a well made gimlet.
I always look forward to your posts. I'm not much of a drinker, and I seldom have mixed drinks, but I'm enjoying this series so much. I loved the literary connection to gimlets and, yes, I think Hemingway would have enjoyed them prepared any way. (Except probably not equal parts gin and Rose's.) Sorry about the cheese straws.
Hi Maureen, Gimlets are great. Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.
Hi Beth, to me a lot of the fun of mixed drinks is some of the history and stories associated with them. Plus, once you learn how to make them (it's not hard), they taste so good. Assuming you use quality ingredients, of course. Thanks for the kind words and the comment. Fortunately, there's more cheese in the refrigerator, so I think a new batch of Cheese Straws is going to be made this weekend!
I'm loving this cocktail series of yours! Gimlets are great - so simple and this may be blasphemous, but I prefer them over martinis (totally different beasts of course). Thanks for all the tips and notes!
Hi Katherine, they really are different beasts. When the weather is hot, I tend to prefer Gimlets, too. Its flavor is so terrific in warm weather. In winter? Martinis all the way! Thanks for your comment.
Oh how I would love to be sitting outside on the deck enjoying The Gimlet right now. I've been looking for the perfect summer drink and I may have just found it.
Thank you so much for sharing...
P.S. Happy belated birthday!!! Next year we should celebrate together!!!
I made these drinks for me and the hubby tonight, he appreciated the smooth, refreshing drink. Please stop by my blog because you have been chosen to receive a Fabulous Blog Ribbon! If you like, you may pass along the fabulous blog ribbon, posting the rules as I have done. But even if you don’t pass it along, you deserve the award and it’s yours to post proudly!
Hi Louise, it's a great drink. I go through a bottle or two of Rose's Lime Juice every summer. Thanks for your comment.
Thanks! We should do something together - maybe post different takes on the same recipe, or whatever? We've got time to decide!
Hi Allessandra, delighted you enjoyed the cocktail! And thanks for the reward - that was extremely kind and sweet. I'll drop by your blog tomorrow and pick it up. Thanks for that, and the comment.
Your cocktail photos never cease to amaze me! I just can't take photos of cocktails if my life depended on it! :( Need to get a lesson from you. ;) Are those ice cubes real ice? I know a lot of product shots in magazines are taken with fake ones that look real and they don't melt so you can take a long time taking the photos. I need some of those. :P
Hi Jenny, cocktail pictures are really hard! One of the reasons I'm doing this Summer Sippin' Series is because I figure if I do a cocktail every week, eventually I'll get better at taking pictures of them. Mine aren't bad, but I see so much I'd like to improve. There are some tricks - and yes, those are fake ice cubes because they photograph better when you have a clear drink and you don't want condensation on the glass (Amazon has OK inexpensive ones) - but it's mainly all about figuring out how to eliminate the reflections you don't want, and getting the reflections you do want. A good reference is the book, Light, Science, and Magic. It doesn't have anything specific about cocktails, but it does talk about how to light glass objects (both with and without liquids). There's a 4th edition out, and it's well worth checking out. Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.
Hey, this is just great. Would you be happy to link it to Food on Friday : Mocktails and Cocktails
Hi Carole, thanks, I'll stop by and check it out. Thanks for commenting.
Okay confession time, I don't drink. Like at all. But I think this looks fab. But I'm sitting here scratching my head at how you took such perfect shots of the glasses with no glare. I am in awe.
Hi Kim, there is some glare on the glasses, but it's (mainly) where I want it to be. And eliminating unwanted glare/reflection is the hardest thing about cocktail photography! It drives me nuts sometimes. I highly recommend the book, Light, Science, and Magic. This is a terrific book on lighting for photography, and it spends chapters talking about what glare is, when and why you want it, when and why you don't want it, and how to handle it. They cover shooting glassware in detail. This isn't a recipe book (i.e. put your subject here, your light there, and your camera over there) although they do have some examples. It spends a lot of time discussing principles and how they work, so you can figure out how to apply them. Thanks for your awe ;-) and your comment!
Okay I'm staring at your ice cubes again. Wondering how you did that. I think I need help. I find myself staring at this way too often.
Hi Kim, ;-) The ice cubes are backlit, which helps reveal and highlight their shape (same deal with the glass). Stare away! It's fun. ;-) Thanks for stopping by.
" And while there are other lime-flavored commercial cordials out there that may (or may not) work in a Gimlet, why bother with anything but Rose’s? It’s available everywhere, and it works well. "
FYI, it might be available everywhere in the US and maybe the UK, but it's not available in my country (Australia).
Hi James, wow, I'm surprised it's not available in Australia. Rose's started out life as a UK company, and I would have assumed they'd export to Australia. But today all of the production may be in the US, so that may be the explanation. Good point, though, that I need to qualify a bit more in my sweeping statements. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Another elegant and delicious drink!! Love it! Thanks for the limey information; interesting!
Hi Judy, glad you liked the limey info! ;-) This really is a terrific drink. Thanks for the comment.
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