Beat the Heat with a Gimlet | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Beat the Heat with a Gimlet

Courtesy Pixabay

Turn to the Gimlet Cocktail for a refreshing and not too alcoholic drink

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When the heat and humidity kicks into high gear, and the air is stifling, a cooling bracer is in order. There are many such cocktails out there; some are classic, some are new-fangled, and many are utterly delicious.

I’ve always been of the opinion, however, that when it comes to muggy weather, a Martini or a Manhattan are a little too nuanced, a little too sophisticated to get the job done.

When the heat has really fried the brain, and the humidity has saturated the soul, the body needs an elemental libation that is potent, but not too strong, slightly sweet, but with a pleasing, tangy bite that reawakens the senses. My libation of choice here is the Gimlet Cocktail.

A simple concoction of gin and Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial, the gimlet is a delicious and enduring classic. Its history dates to at least the mid-19th century, though its origins are a little obscure. Its biggest boost in popularity came in the mid-1950s when novelist Raymond Chandler weaved it into his in his 1953 novel, The Long Goodbye.

Chandler uses the gimlet cocktail to lubricate and ultimately anchor the friendship between private detective Philip Marlow, his protagonist, and Terry Lennox, an alcoholic British ex-pat around whom the novel turns. As Marlow recalls early in the book:

We sat in the corner bar at Victor’s and drank gimlets. “They don’t know how to make them here,” [Lennox] 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.”

Chandler mentions the gimlet another 20 times or so in the novel; it eventually serves as a salute to the memory of the Lennox character. As Joseph Scott and Donald Bain astutely observe in their late-1990s bar-themed book, The World's Best Bartenders' Guide, “In a sense, Marlowe did for the gimlet what James Bond did for the martini.”

In the novel, Marlow returns to Victor’s Bar for a memorial drink, only this time Chandler finally has the barmen make the gimlet correctly with the Rose’s Lime Juice. As Marlow relates:

The bartender set the drink in front of me. With the lime juice it has sort of a pale greenish yellowish misty look. I tasted it. It was both sweet and sharp at the same time.

The 1:1 ratio between gin and Rose’s Lime Juice cordial is traditional but too sweet; my own long-standing recipe calls for much more gin. But the essential ingredients have always been sacrosanct in my book, and Chandler captures it exactly right in his book—it must be sweet and sharp.

Yet many bartenders who take their craft seriously eschew the Rose Lime Juice Cordial because, well, it is gross on its own. While at one time it was made of natural ingredients, for a long while now it has been packed full of artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup, and especially unnatural looking artificial colors. Used judiciously, however, it provides that essential bracing, bitter, tart edge to a gimlet.

Fresh lime juice doesn’t deliver in this respect, even when mixed with sugar or simple syrup. Indeed, the gimlet is one of those rare exceptions to the general rule that fresh fruit juice must always be used for the cocktail to taste any good. Hence, I’ve never deviated from using Rose’s. Until now.

I recently opted to try the home-made Lime Juice Cordial of legendary barmen Jeffrey Morgenthaler, of Portland, Oregon.  It is a little involved, but very easy.

Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Lime Cordial


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