I know that the Gimlet and the Rose’s Lime Juice vs. fresh juice and simple syrup argument have been written about many times before. However, I would like to briefly stir up the discourse once again.
A Brief History
The Gimlet is one of those old revered drinks with long naval traditions. The story of the Gimlet began with the Royal Navy, the Merchant Shipping Act and the invention of Rose’s Lime Juice. The Merchant Shipping Act of 1867 required all ships of the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy to provide a daily lime ration to sailors to prevent scurvy.
It just so happened that in that same year, Lauchlan Rose patented a method to preserve citrus juice without alcohol. Soon, his product became the ubiquitous Rose’s Lime Juice. The naval officers of the Royal Navy added their Rose’s Lime Juice to gin, creating the Gimlet. Enlisted sailors probably mixed Rose’s Lime Juice with their rum rations to make Grog.
Today, with the slow food movement and craft cocktail “renaissance”, it seems like everything has to be local and artisanal. The modern version of Rose’s with its high fructose corn syrup and food coloring-laden recipe just isn’t good enough anymore! Now, bartenders proud of their craft often prefer to use fresh lime juice and homemade simple syrup in lieu of the original neon-green flavoring.
The Traditional Gimlet
“a real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s lime juice and nothing else” – Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye.
Despite the current craft cocktail movement and the drink snobbery that comes with it (I am so guilty of this), many drink historians and bartenders still hold that the one and only true way to make a Gimlet is to use Rose’s Lime Juice and Gin. To some extent, I must agree with them because I hold history and lineage to high esteem.
I also understand that the use of Rose’s Lime Juice lends a strange, unique flavor that many purists seek for in their Gimlets. However, I also deem that it is too restrictive and narrow-minded to say that the old way is absolutely the only one true way. Drinks evolve all the time. Methods, proportions and various other aspects change over time to reflect current taste preferences and fashions.
Perhaps there could be a compromise of sorts. Perhaps the old way could be designated as the Original Gimlet, and the new fresh way could be designated as the Modern Gimlet…or something like that. In my opinion, whether you want to use fresh lime juice or Rose’s Lime Juice is a matter of personal taste and preference.
The Original Gimlet
- 1 part Gin
- 1 part Rose’s Lime Juice
Shake with ice. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with lime wheel or lime wedge if you like (but back in the day, the Royal Navy sailors probably didn’t have fresh limes to spare, or even ice for that matter).
The Modern Gimlet
Despite my respect for the traditional Gimlet, I much prefer using fresh lime juice and simple syrup in mine. To me, the fresh lime juice gives the Gimlet a bright and refreshing bite of awesomeness! Also, as Kevin has already described, making your own simple syrup is extremely easy.
Properly made, the Gimlet is a pretty simple-minded, one dimensional drink, but one that does its job well! In the heat and humidity of summer, the Gimlet can cut through the thick of it all to quench your thirst and uplift your spirit!
Despite being a simple drink, there are still choices to be made in how you want to make yours. Questions you might ask yourself include: Do I use simple syrup (1:1) or rich simple syrup (2:1) or perhaps another sweetener? What proportions of sweet to sour should I use? There really isn’t any right answer. Once again, these choices really depend on personal taste and preference. Here’s how I like to make mine:
The Modern Gimlet
- 1.5 oz. Gin (I like Beefeater and Tanqueray)
- 0.75 oz. Lime Juice
- 0.5 oz. Rich Simple Syrup
Shake with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish needed. Gulp it down in three swigs
Scrounging ingredients in Taiwan
So I’m back at home in Taipei right now, with no access to my bar, my glassware or my tools and equipment. Have no fear, for I can still make a Gimlet!
In anticipation, I had brought home my tiny back-up cobbler shaker as well as two jiggers (0.5 oz/0.75 oz; 1oz/2oz.). I bought a bottle of Beefeater Gin and some limes from the supermarket. I was able to juice the limes because my mom had a cumbersome, but still effective hand juicer.
I got some sugar from the kitchen. I probably should have made simple syrup, but I couldn’t find an empty bottle to hold it, so I decided to do it later. We have no cocktail glasses at home, but I found 2 medium-sized wine goblets. You can see in the picture below the array of materials I gathered.
Scrounged Gimlet at Home (2 servings)
- 3 oz. Beefeater Gin
- 1.5 oz. Lime Juice
- 3 spoons of White Sugar (~2 tsps?)
Shake with ice. Strain into wine goblets. Garnish with half lime wheel. Share with Mom.
Results: Mm, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. I really should have made simple syrup instead of just using the sugar directly. Even though I shook the drink extra hard and extra long, some of the sugar didn’t dissolve. This resulted in a very tart drink that had a small pile of sugar grains at the bottom. The texture of the drink was also a little bit off.
Despite some of the shortcomings, it was still quite a delicious drink. That’s the advantage of such a simple drink. Despite unfamiliar settings or tools and material, it is still easy to make a decent enough drink. The Gimlet is easy enough that navy sailors could make them out at sea!
Here’s a cool video of Kazuo Uyeda demonstrating his “Ginza Hardshake” by making a Gimlet.
How do you like your Gimlet? The traditional way with Rose’s Lime Juice or the contemporary way with fresh lime juice and simple syrup?