When it comes to gin cocktails, there’s no debating the appeal of the classic gin and tonic. It’s crisp, refreshing, and perfect for a summer day (or literally any other time of year). But if your gin-based cocktail enjoyment doesn’t go past that popular cocktail, you’re really missing out on a world of floral, botanical, fresh mixed drinks. Especially the delicious, flavorful gin gimlet.
While we’re on the gin and tonic bandwagon from way back, we also love the simple, elegant gin gimlet. This herbaceous, piney, juniper, tart lime, and absolute refresher of a mixed drink is one of our favorites all year long from the breezy heat of summer to the frigid frost of winter.
One of the most basic gin-based cocktails to prepare, in its bare bones form, the drink consists of only two parts: gin and lime cordial (the official recipe calls for Rose’s Lime Juice). It’s mostly gin with a little lime juice and is a fresh, light, tart, boozy drink that deserves to be in your cocktail rotation. Also, if you’re a fan of daiquiris, there’s an alternative version of the drink that consists of gin (instead of white rum), simple syrup, and lime juice.
- London dry gin
- 1 ounce Rose’s Lime Juice
- Garnish with a lime wheel
- Combine gin and sweetened lime juice in a shaker.
- Shake vigorously, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a lime wheel.
Like many classic cocktails (especially gin-based drinks), the gin gimlet is British through and through. The popular sweetened lime juice used in most recipes (Rose’s) is made in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was created in the late 1800s as a way to preserve citrus juice. He opted to preserve it with sugar instead of alcohol to create a bigger appeal for the product.
It is said that the cocktail was invented by a British Royal Navy Rear-Admiral named Sir Thomas Desmond Gimlette. Not surprisingly, scurvy was rampant among the Royal Navy in the late 1800s. Navy doctors prescribed lime juice so sailors would get enough vitamin C. But lime juice on its own is quite tart and bitter. Gimlette, it’s believed, suggested that the officers get their daily ration of gin (lower-ranking sailors got a ration of rum instead) and combine it with the lime juice to make it more palatable.
Others believe the drink was actually named for the gimlet, a tool used to drill some holes in wood, often found on ships. Like with all cocktails, it’s difficult to prove fact from fiction. It’s not fiction, though, that the first record of the drink was in 1923 when bartender Harry MacElhone of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris published the recipe. It consisted of Plymouth gin and Rose’s Lime Juice.
If you ask bartenders and peruse gin gimlet recipes online, you might notice that while some people prefer using sweetened lime juice, others prefer fresh lime juice and simple syrup (similar to a daiquiri but with gin instead of white rum). Some believe that the use of simple syrup and lime juice gives the drink a different, sweeter taste while the sweetened lime juice gives it the sweet, tart bite that drinkers prefer. We suggest ending the debate in your own home by mixing up both versions.
Just understand that, when it comes to a drink like the gimlet, paying attention to the recipe is important. Even though it’s simple, one misstep makes for a very unpalatable drink. We’re talking, of course, about lime juice. Be sure it’s sweetened. Otherwise, you’re in for a boozy, tart drink you might not enjoy all that much.
If you’re not about the store-bought lime cordials, you can also make your own. If you’re opting for the alternate version, simple syrup and fresh lime juice guarantee a sweet, citrus-driven drink. Just make sure you squeeze your juice out of an actual lime and not a tiny lime-shaped bottle.
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