Tuesday, March 31, 2015


I think of the Gimlet as a decidedly old-fashioned drink. I know it's a classic cocktail, but I can't remember ever seeing it on a bar menu. I know Betty Draper ordered one in the second episode of Mad Men, but that doesn't do much to convince me of its moderninity.

But I do love gin, and I wanted to cover the classics here. So I made a Gimlet. And wow. I really enjoyed it. It's a simple cocktail - just simple syrup, lime juice, and gin - but it's a perfect gin cocktail. The flavor of the gin is highlighted without being too spirit-forward. It's frightfully easy to drink.

The recipe I used called for 1 oz. of simple syrup and 3/4 oz. lime juice, which seemed like it would be too sweet. In fact, I think I'm going to declare GarnishGirl's First Rule of Mixology: the amount of sweetener in a cocktail should never exceed the amount of citrus juice. I find that a 1:1 ratio of lemon or lime to simple syrup is usually appropriate, and sure enough, that's what I preferred here.

History: Like many of the oldest cocktails, the Gimlet's origin is elusive. My favorite version is that it was invented by Sir Thomas Gimlette, a surgeon in the British Royal Navy, to coerce sailors to consume lime to prevent scurvy. Although another fascinating fact is that a mixture of gin, lime juice, sugar, and water taken every four hours was prescribed as a remedy for cholera patients in Calcutta by one Dr. Soorjo Coomar Goodeve Chuckerbutty in 1861. It remains unclear how that particular concoction would have made it into the 20th century American bartender's recipe book. A gimlet is also a tool used for boring holes, so the cocktail may have been named for its "penetrating" effects on the drinker.

The Gimlet was made famous by Raymond Chandler in his novel The Long Goodbye. His protagonist, the bourbon-swilling detective Philip Marlowe, befriends a fellow drinker named Terry Lennox who declares that "A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose's Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow."

If you've ever used Rose's Lime Juice, you probably cringed a bit (as I did) while reading that passage. But the Rose's Lime Juice of 1953 was a different formulation from the high-fructose-corn-syrup-dyed-green that it is today, invented as a way to preserve lime for sailors at sea. Using fresh lime juice and simple syrup probably yields a more authentic version of the cocktail.

A vodka Gimlet uses vodka instead of gin. Replace the gin with rum, and you've got a traditional Daiquiri.


2 oz. gin
3/4 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup

Combine ingredients in a shaker. Add ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass or coupe and garnish with a slice of lime.

Recipe adapted from Vintage Cocktails.

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