Drink of the Week: The Gimlet

gimlet cocktailIt’s the start of another July 4th Weekend, but we are forgiving folk here at Drink of the Week central. In fact, we’ll be big about our little armed disagreement that began in earnest back in 1776 and choose a drink that highlights the U.S./English special relationship. We’ll get into the whys and wherefores in a bit, first the drink itself.

The Gimlet

Two ounces gin
1/2-1 ounce of Rose’s Lime Juice

Pour contents into a shaker with plenty of ice. Shake as vigorously and as long as you can stand, and pour into a chilled martini glass. Make a toast to English/American friendship and sip at will.

Since Rose’s comes pre-sweetened, there’s no need to add any sweetener. However, if you have a huge sweet tooth, you may demand that you have an older version of the drink — equal parts gin and Rose’s. When we tried it that way, we found it a bit excessive.

Now, usually, drinks made with fresh juices are going to be a lot better, but the gimlet appears to be rare exception. We actually tried it with 1 ounce of fresh lime juice and a teaspoon of sugar, but it wasn’t as good as the version with Rose’s.

Now, the history: The source of the name of this very refreshing, very summer-appropriate, cocktail may be one Sir Thomas Gimlette, an English Royal Navy surgeon who eventually rose to the rank of Surgeon General in the early 20th century. It’s possible that part of what got him to that esteemed post was that, back in the later 19th century, he had popularized the anti-scurvy properties of Vitamin C-rich lime juice among his fleet by encouraging the men to mix it with a bit of London gin. Thus, he helped begat the not-so-flattering term “limey” for English sailors and, eventually, English people in general. Of course, the gimlet might also be named after the hand tool used for drilling holes, but we don’t find anything particularly refreshing about that.

Whatever its origins, the gimlet wormed its way into American culture and, perhaps because of the dry, warm weather, found some notable fans in our native metropolis of Los Angeles, a city that many notable limeys Englishman have called home over the years. One famed Angeleno gimlet fan was British-American mystery writer Raymond Chandler, the creator of detective Phillip Marlowe, who mentioned the drink at some length in one of his greatest novels, The Long Goodbye, which is also the widely quoted source of that original 50/50 gin/Rose’s recipe we mentioned above. (If our memory is correct, the drink isn’t featured in Robert Altman’s equally great 1973 movie quasi-adaptation. Nothing is perfect.)

Much, much lower on the artistic scale than anyone we’ve mentioned, Edward D. Wood, Jr. of “Plan 9 From Outer Space” was another gimlet hound. Wood, who drank even more in real life than he did in the Tim Burton-directed biopic starring Johnny Depp, apparently liked gimlets made with vodka so much that his “adult fiction”-writing pen name was Telmig Akdov.

As for variations on the Gimlet, we’ve already mentioned that it can be made with vodka, and we’d argue a rum gimlet might actually be superior to one with gin. One variation we’re not so found of, however, is that tendency to sometimes serve this drink on the rocks. Earlier this week, we tried a high end ($15.00!!!) version made at an ultra-glam Hollywood-area hotel. Despite the inclusion of both Hendrick’s Gin (possibly our favorite) and cucumbers, which always seems to improve cocktails made with that particular brand, it was a disappointment taste wise. We were not asked first if we would prefer it “up” and it was one option we should have been given. One more reason to cherish really good bartenders when you find them.

  

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