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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