Drink of the Week: The Gin Rickey

The Gin Rickey.It’s probably somewhat criminal that it’s taken me so long to get to a drink that’s as simple and classic as the Gin Rickey. Like the Martini, this is a drink that not everyone will cotton to immediately. Indeed, to be very honest I’m still working on acquiring a taste for it myself as it’s more than a little on the tart side for me. No surprise as it contains lime juice and zero sweetener.

Still, this is a drink with a little history and it certainly won’t be bad on a warm day. And, yes, I know it’s January. However, I live in North Hollywood, California and high temps on this side of the L.A. hill are in the eighties this week, so nyah, nyah, nyah East Coasters with your snow and frequently superior public transportation.

The Gin Rickey is named for one Colonel Joe Rickey, a Confederate soldier turned 19th century Democratic Party lobbyist, back when the Democrats were the party of Andrew Jackson instead of Franklin Roosevelt and the Republicans were the party of Abraham Lincoln instead of Ronald Reagan. Anyhow, it seems that Colonel Rickey was the kind of drinker who frequently needed a morning “eye-opener” to get him over the hangover hump, and somewhere along the way a helpful bartender named George A. Williamson helped him create a drink made with bourbon, seltzer water and a bit of lime juice. Over the years, however, the gin version became far more popular, with its lighter, easier to take flavor, and that’s what we’ve got here.

The Gin Rickey

1 1/2-2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
2-5 ounces carbonated water
1 lime wedge or one spent lime shell (garnish)

Build over ice in Tom Collins or highball glass. partly depending on what you’ve got on hand and how much soda water and gin you’d like to use. (Highball glasses are often a bit larger.) Stir. Garnish either with a spent lime shell or, my preference, a lime wedge. Toast carbonated water, for it contains water but also air. That’s two out of four elements!


I tried this drink a number of different ways and what we’ve got here is, basically, something like a martini. What I mean by that is that it’s a drink that requires a bit of getting used to. It may not be as boozy, but it’s somewhat tart without being at all sweet. I also mean that it seems to work fairly well when you mess around with the proportions, much as both dry and very un-dry martinis can both be perfectly great. On the upside, it is refreshing and about as low-cal as a mixed drink gets.

I tried my Gin Rickey with four different gins. I found I got the best results with both my most expensive gin on hand, Nolet’s and my least expensive, good old Gordon’s. Both added a nice herbal tang to the affair. Tanqueray, somewhere in the middle price wise but a classic product for a reason, was fine but a bit more in your face.

I also read that Old Tom Gin, which is sweetened, could also be used with a Rickey. Oddly enough, however, the little bit of sugar in Hayman’s Old Tom Gin merely set off and thereby emphasized the tartness. Not really an improvement.

The one thing I haven’t tried yet, partly because I ran out of fizzy water and kept forgetting to replace it, is the original Bourbon Ricky. Don’t worry, I’ll give that a whirl some day.


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Drink of the Week: The French 75

Image ALT text goes here.The French 75 does not refer to the number of pounds Gerard Depardieu could stand to lose. No, it refers to a really  marvelous and relatively simple classic presumably imbibed in massive quantities by Ernest, F. Scott, Pablo, Gertrude and all those other people Woody Allen fantasizes about hanging out with.

The drink itself is named after a rapid firing cannon, the first truly modern piece of field artillery, say the Wikipedians. As for the cocktail, it “hits with remarkable precision” according to The Savoy Cocktail Book. I have to say I agree.

Reportedly created circa 1915 at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris by Harry himself, the French 75 rarely misfires. It’s delicate, friendly, and sophisticated all at the same time. The Lost Generation sure could find their way to a good mixed drink.

The French 75

1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons superfine sugar or 1/2 ounce simple syrup
Champagne/sparkling white wine
1 lemon twist (garnish)

Combine the gin, juice, and sugar or syrup in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a champagne glass. Top off with roughly 2-3 ounces of the dry sparkling white wine of your choice. Add your lemon twist and toast the early/mid 20th century author, poet, or painter of your choice.


First of all, I should add that this week’s drink represents a return engagement for the Yellow Tail Sparkling White Wine featured in last week’s beverage, the Capone. I am not a wasteful cocktail blogger and, as I still had half a bottle of not precisely champagne left and those little stoppers things actually work okay, I decided to try another sparkling white wine based cocktail. And, while I admit that Australia is a very long way from the Champagne region of France, any brut (dry) white fizzy wine should work okay here. The Yellow Tail worked pretty brilliantly, in fact, and I feel no need to rename this version of the drink after something Australian.

The French 75 is one of those drinks where there is a great deal of variation from recipe to recipe and experimentation is welcome. My favorite version of the drink was the one featured above, but I also enjoyed a couple of variations I tried out. One, maligned somewhat elsewhere, used Cointreau in place of sugar for a somewhat boozier, orangey-er concoction; it wasn’t quite as deliciously delicate as the version above, but was still a very nice drink of its own that many may prefer.  I also experimented with dispensing with the sugar and using sweetened Hayman’s Old Tom Gin in place of my Beefeater. The result was drier but still very, very light and enjoyable.

The trick, for  me, is keeping the lemon juice under control. Some recipes call for as much as a whole ounce of lemon juice and more sugar. To that, mates, I say “non.”


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