The Gimlet (Resurrected)
1.5 – 2 oz Leopold’s Gin
0.75 oz Lime Juice
0.75 oz Simple Syrup
Shake with ice and strain.
Spare the garnish.
* * *
If anything, I’m a sucker for naval drinking traditions. However, like keelhauling, walking the plank, and the lash, some naval traditions were meant to fade into the annals of lore. I hereby nominate Rose’s Lime Juice to join those ranks. Of course, there would be no Gimlet without Rose’s Lime, and if you follow the recommendation of most top bartenders and drink historians, there simply is no other way to make the drink. I’m going to be so bold as to say that they’re all wrong. Here’s why.
At one of those rare moments when good fortune and ingenuity collide, Scotsman Lauchlin Rose patented a way to preserve lime juice in the very same year (1867) that the British passed the Merchant Shipping Act. The latter required that all Royal Navy ships provide daily lime rations to their crews as prevention against scurvy. The officers mixed their Rose’s with gin, creating the Gimlet, while the crew mixed theirs with rum, creating the original Daiquiri.
Up to this point, I’m with them. The problem is that modern Rose’s is nothing like the Rose’s of yore. Am I a historian on the subject? No. But one look at the ingredients in a bottle of Rose’s tells me all I need to know:
Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Concentrated Lime Juice,
Sodium Metabisulfite (Preservative), Blue 1
Really? Aside from the water and lime juice, I don’t want any of those in my drink. Water, lime juice, and sweetener — I can take care of those myself. Modern Rose’s also has a horribly processed and artificial taste (much like their ubiquitous Grenadine). This should come as no surprise when you consider that the whole product line is now a division of Dr. Pepper-Snapple’s Mott’s (apple juice) arm. Without any research to back me up, I still remain resolute that Mr. Lachlin Rose would not recognize the current product that bears his name.
I also believe that if the Royal Navy had been able to carry a plentiful supply of fresh limes with them wherever they went, they would have. So, I see no disrespect in casting the Rose’s aside and going for the real stuff. Plus, it’s one less ingredient to buy.
As for the proportions, I’ll put forth three arguments for my above recipe: 1) In his The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler wrote that “a real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s lime juice and nothing else”. Substitute lime juice and simple syrup for the Rose’s and you have validation number one. Today, Gin is lower proof than it was in the past, so scale up to 2 oz for a slightly stronger drink or down to 1.5 for a more rounded one; 2) Using only 1.5 ounces of Leopold’s per drink will net you 16 drinks per bottle. 2 oz makes 12. Using 2.5 ounces, as others recommend, you’ll only get 9 drinks. Something to be aware of if you don’t want to burn through your stash too quickly; and, 3) It’s danged tasty, with a perfect balance of gin, tart, and sweetness (so say I).
As always, experiment and tweak to your heart’s delight, but if you can remember the basic Sour recipe of 1 part sour, 1 part sweet, and 2 parts spirit, you’ll easily be able to whip up Sours, Gimlets, and Fitzgeralds like a pro.
Why no garnish? My own conceit here is that if the Royal Navy had no room for limes, they certainly wouldn’t have brought along twists, wheels, or wedges. Some traditions are worth keeping alive.
Variations: One thing I love about the Gimlet is its flexibility. White Syrup, Brown Syrup, and Rosemary Syrup all work wonders here , providing slightly different nuances (I prefer Brown, as it seems more authentic and is less sweet). As the drink lends itself particularly well to herbals and vegetables, you’ll often find cucumber as an ingredient. If you want to pursue this route, Hendrick’s Gin is your natural choice, as cucumber is one of the flavors (and it’s great stuff). If you want a stronger drink, up the Spirits or lower the Syrup. Really, as long as your drink is balanced and tastes good to you, it’s hard to go wrong.
- Lime and Sugar: Gin Gimlet Without the Rose’s (thekitchn.com)
- Right herbs can lead to intriguing cocktails (sfgate.com)