For those of you who tuned in for yesterday’s Heritage Radio Network interview, here’s the gimlet recipe I teased on the show. For those who didn’t catch the talk live, click the link and have a listen!
Somewhere along the way, as my paycheck grew, my tastes expanded, and I discovered Boulevardiers, single-malt Scotch, and classic Champagne cocktails, my love for the gimlet faded into the background. Sugary drinks were no longer my bag, baby, and an iced-down glass of sickly-sweet Rose’s lime cordial no longer hit the spot the way it did in my early 20s.
Time, then, to reclaim the gimlet from its nostalgic purgatory and pull it back into my repertoire of go-to drinks. However, it now might be one of those cocktails I only drink when I’m at home. A gimlet consists of only two ingredients—gin (or vodka, which is how I drank them after one too many evenings with bottom-shelf nasty cheap juniper-reeking stuff) and lime cordial. Though it’s true that any bartender with a bottle of Rose’s at his disposal can make a passable gimlet, it’s once again proven true that fresh, homemade mixers take the cocktail from decent to devastatingly good.
And unless you suffered a debilitating gin incident in your formative boozing years, I strongly urge you to take your hands off the vodka bottle and try the gimlet as it was originally intended to be consumed. But choose your gin wisely; I tend to stay away from the juniper-heavy versions like Tanqueray or Gordon’s, and prefer a smooth gin with a “cleaner” taste. Plymouth gin is the traditional pairing for this simple drink, but I’ve been sneaking my beloved Death’s Door, with its subtle aromatic blend, into the mix too.
(By the by, though the story’s been re-told everywhere, including respectable places like the Wall Street Journal, the British National Maritime Museum says it’s completely apocryphal that the gimlet was invented to prevent scurvy in the Royal Navy. But it’s a fun tale, nonetheless.)
And since I’m making my own lime cordial, I’ll tweak tradition just slightly further by adding a few shakes of citrus bitters to the gimlet, like those from Brooklyn’s Hella Bitters. It doesn’t take a lot, but the bitters give the drink a titch more depth, highlighting and blending the herbal notes of the gin with the tart tones of the lime cordial. It’s one of those little touches that make a big difference—and that make people think you can mix a really good cocktail.
Homemade Lime Cordial
adapted from The New York Times
Prep time:30 minutes
Total time:2 days (for steeping)
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
- 10 limes, rinsed and dried
- 1 cup (7 oz.) granulated sugar
Zest the limes with a fine-toothed Microplane grater, then juice the limes. You should get about 1 to 1 1/4 cups of juice after straining the pulp.
Stir the lime zest, juice, and sugar together in a non-reactive (i.e., glass or steel) bowl until the sugar is fully dissolved. You’ll feel the mixture go from gritty to smooth as the sugar melts into the acidic liquid. Cover and let sit for 24 hours, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a Mason jar or other non-reactive storage container. Refrigerate for another 24 hours before using.
Store the cordial in the refrigerator; it’ll keep for about a month.
The Bitter Gimlet
Prep time:5 minutes
Total time:5 minutes
Makes 1 drink
- 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 fl. oz.) Plymouth gin
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 fl. oz.) lime cordial
- a few shakes of citrus bitters
Your preference: either shake the gin, cordial, and bitters together with ice in a cocktail shaker, then strain into a martini glass, or stir them together over ice in an old-fashioned glass. Either way, you’ll be refreshed.