Like this beautiful blue metal box, the Gimlet takes a few simple ingredients and turns them into something incredible, classic and celebrated. This is one of the more storied cocktails out there, which is saying something, as most cocktails have at least a short story. We have to head back to the late 1800’s when British Royal Navy Surgeon Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Gimlette was known for mixing his gin ration (“mother’s ruin”) with the lime juice cordial (“Rose’s”) required on all ships of the British merchant marines. Navy men had already been doing this with their rum for decades. Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial was invented by a Scottish merchant in 1867 as a palatable “antiscorbutic” - an enjoyable way to prevent scurvy. It would have been just about the only mixer handy on a naval ship. The first recipe for a “Gimlet” appeared in Harry MacElhone’s “ABC’s of Mixing Cocktails” from 1922. But the most famous Gimlet recipe comes from Philipe Marlowe, private eye:
“We sat in a corner of the bar at Victor's and drank gimlets. ‘They don't know how to make them here,’ he said. ‘What they call a gimlet is just some lime or lemon juice and gin with a dash of sugar and bitters. A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose's Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow.’ “
From “The Long Goodbye”, by Ramond Chandler, 1953
Rose’s Lime Juice was more cordial, less artificial sticky syrup back then. Purists will insist on sticking to the classic recipe, even now, but I would argue that a homemade lime cordial will evoke the original gimlet more closely than the modern day bottled version. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to make. If you are still uncertain about the simple perfection of this drink, let Papa convince you:
“It was now lunch time and they were all sitting under the double green fly of the dining tent pretending that nothing had happened. ‘Will you have lime juice or lemon squash?’ Macomber asked. ‘I’ll have a gimlet,’ Robert Wilson told him. ‘I’ll have a gimlet too. I need something,’ Macomber’s wife said. ‘I suppose it’s the thing to do,’ Macomber agreed.
From “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” by Ernest Hemingway, 1936
I can’t follow Hemingway, so that’s all I’ve got to say. Oh, and why is the Gimlet paired here with the “First Box” puzzle by Wil Strijbos? Sip on one while you ponder that puzzle and let me know – I suppose it’s the thing to do. Cheers!
2 oz gin
1 oz* lime cordial
Shake together over ice and strain into a favorite glass. *Proportions should be adjusted to taste, depending on how sweet you like it. Marlowe’s version was 50:50, for example. Lime cordial can be made simply by adding the zest of about 12 limes to their juice and a cup of sugar for 24 hours, then straining out the zest. You can get fancier if you like, but that works just fine.
For more about the fiendish First Box and to read the full article see:
Boxes and Booze: A Cordial First