Cocktail Stories: The Gimlet

Gimlet – sounds like a dwarf from Lord of the Rings, doesn’t it?

What it is, however, is one of those drinks from the classic canon of cocktails which, like its distant relative the Martini, epitomises pure simplicity and elegance. With just two ingredients. Count ‘em. Two! That’s it.

Because there are some things in life which just effortlessly partner up, like a hand slipping into a satin glove: tomatoes and basil; lamb and mint sauce; Bert and Ernie. To this list, we’d like to add our own heavenly marriage: gin and citrus. There’s a reason we all add a wedge of lemon or lime to our Gin and Tonics. It just … works.

And in the cocktail world, the Gimlet is probably the highest celebration of this ethereal combination: a humble and unassuming blend of gin and lime juice. Now, normally we’re the first in line to tell you to always use fresh citrus juice in your drinks and, under most other circumstances, you should. But the Gimlet has always been a drink apart, a bit of a rogue. And that’s why it calls for lime cordial. But not just any old lime cordial. Very specifically, for the classic Gimlet to be a Gimlet, it needs the brand Rose’s Lime Cordial.

It’s easy to imagine how the drink would have first come around. Back in the eighteenth century, sailors in the British Navy would have been given a daily ration of rum as part of their payment. Their officers, on the other hand, in a conscious effort to separate themselves from the commoners who did all the hard work, would have drunk gin or Cognac. As the eighteenth century moved into the nineteenth century, some bright spark came upon the realisation that citrus juice worked as an effective preventative to scurvy – a scourge which blighted sailors due to the lack of vitamin C in their diets – an unfortunate consequence of being away at sea for months on end with no access to fresh fruit or vegetables. So while the Navy subsequently encouraged the consumption of lime juice (they even introduced a law making it obligatory), they needed a way of masking its sourness. So sailors would have mixed it with their rum rations, whilst the officers would have mixed it with their daily gin. The difficulty here was that keeping a constant and ready supply of fresh limes to hand was problematic, especially when you only saw land once every few months.

Enter Scottish entrepreneur Lauchlan Rose who, in 1867, patented the world’s first long-life fruit juice concentrate, Rose’s Lime Cordial, which wasn’t only ripe in vitamin C, but also had the benefit of a shelf-life long enough to meet the demands of the Navy. Now, the exact origin of when gin was first mixed with Rose’s Lime Cordial, or who was responsible for  doing so and thereby creating the Gimlet remains unclear, but we can assume it was a relatively well-known staple in the cocktail world, up until 1922 when its recipe was first printed in Harry MacElhone’s ABC of Mixing Drinks.

As for its name, again that’s a disputed history, but we personally reckon it’s named after the small hand-tool for drilling holes, due to the sharp and piercing nature of the drink. Whatever its origin and whatever its etymology, it’s a bright and zingy number which is perfect for our soon-to-be-lengthening evenings. 

The Gimlet

75ml Premium Gin
20ml Rose's Lime Cordial

Add ingredients to cocktail shaker, shake hard with ice for 10 seconds. fine strain into a chilled coupe glass. Enjoy. It's as simple as that.

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