Friday, October 12, 2007

Gimlets, Gimlets Everywhere

We've been serving a lot of gimlets the last few weeks, I think its perhaps due to the unseasonably hot weather we've been having in Chicago recently. We often tinker with the recipe, but we almost never use lime cordial. Of course a few bartender friends have told me that its not really a Gimlet if you don't use Rose's lime, but I've not bought into that. Given all this sipping and discussing, I wondered about the history of the gimlet. Thankfully, a quick perusal of a few of my trusty cocktail books gave me the lowdown.

According to Gary Regan's The Joy of Mixology (p. 261), It seems the Gimlet was originally called the Gimlette, and was named after the naval surgeon who created the drink as a means to give lime juice to sailors for the prevention of scurvy. According to the Field Guide to Cocktails by Rob Chirico (p. 119), Dr. Gimette thought that gin alone might cloud the sailors' minds, and adding lime juice to it would prevent that (hmm...).

iAccording to Wikipedia, Lauchlin Rose (hence the name Rose's) invented lime cordial in the 1860's. Mr. Rose patented a method to preserve citrus juice that did not require alcohol, and the British Royal Navy was at that time required to provide a daily lime ration to sailors (hence the term "limey"). A lime cordial ration + gin = happy sailors who don't get scurvy (or so they thought then).

Gimlets Today
If you go into most bars today and order a gimlet, you'll probably get vodka not gin, and you'll definitely get Rose's lime (or an impersonator). The actual recipe varies widely depending on your preferred source - some say equal parts gin & Rose's, some say 3:1 gin to Rose's, etc.

So how do we make ours? Here are the parameters of our Gimlet mixing (the basis of which I learned from Tim Lacey at Spring Restaurant Group in Chicago), with no Rose's:

2 1/2 oz Gin (I'm sure you can guess which one we use)
1/2 - 1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 - 1 oz Simple Syrup

We vary the ingredients based on the lime juice, how sweet we want it to be, and mood. Our current favorite variation is to use ginger-infused simple and call it a Ginger Gimlet.

To Rose or Not to Rose
Apparently there is a scene in the movie The Long Goodbye where a statement is made about a Gimlet only being made with Rose's, and since then this is a widely held belief. In fact, at least one of my cocktail books says that if you don't use Rose's and instead use fresh lime juice, you're making a Gin Rickey instead. But a Gin Rickey isn't sweetened if you're making it right, so that doesn't make sense to me. Rose's is, after all, sweetened lime juice (very sweetened) with some other stuff. So if I just use another form of sweetener and lime juice, isn't that just a recipe variation?

Clearly, that's my vote! However I have been looking up recipes for homemade lime cordial, so I think I'll give that a try too. Look for a future post on that, and please post a comment if you've made one!


Anonymous said...

Sonja - in interest of providing tried and true feedback, I held a taste test with friends on the ginger gin gimlet using the ginger infused simple syrup and then freshly squeezed lime juice and FreshLime juice (from concentrate). First, the ginger simple is simple to make and adds a great flavor. Second, the fresh lime juice was best; when using the FreshLime, we needed a bit more gin to take away the tartness of the Freshlime flavor. Last, thanks for the great recipe (even the non-gin drinker liked it) and background on the gimlet - always good to know.

Iain Abernathy said...

My two cents on the fresh v. cordial lime - as it was created for use on ship, it wasn't usually fresh lime juice. It may have been fresh a few days out of port, but not for long. Rose's probably has a fair claim to authenticity (or at least a great many years of dominance). I say Rose's is the best way to go, but any sweet and tart lime juice will do.
My recipe - 1.5 oz gin and wave the Rose's bottle over it.

~Sonja~ said...

Thank you both for your comments! We've definitely found that the ginger gimlet goes over well with a broad audience, even non-gin drinkers. And I'm sure Iain's right about the Rose's, and with the quantity he's using in his recipe, I'd probably like it just fine. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I'm strongly in the 'cordial not fresh' camp. And, more specifically, Rose's (not because it's the most 'authentic' or anything, but because the others I've tried are just awful crap).

The 'preserved' nature of the cordial makes sense given the drink's origins. I'd like to try a homemade sometime though, not a bad idea at all. My preferred recipe is 3:2 parts Rose's to Gin, and the more strongly-flavored the gin, the better.

~Sonja~ said...

Thanks for the visit and the comment, Gabriel! I'm hoping one of my recipes will make a good alternative to Rose's, I've had a couple of bad experiences with it (off note in the taste). Maybe I'll have to break down and buy a new bottle too, just to see if it was just a couple of freak occurrences.

rocketlass said...

i've just come back from new york, where i had my first ever gimlet - a lavendar gimlet at five points restaurant.

same idea as your recipe, except that the simple syrup is infused with lavendar. it was gorgeous.

can't wait to try ginger!

~Sonja~ said...

Thanks for your comment, Rocketlass - I hope you enjoy the ginger. We have really enjoyed it the last few months. I have got to try lavender too - my favorite gin has a bit of lavender in it, so I bet it will be great with lavender syrup!