The Gimlet, a gin and lime cocktail, can be traced back to its purported service to sailors in the British Royal Navy as a scurvy-fighting concoction before gaining widespread popularity in 1953.
The Gimlet, a cocktail composed of gin and lime juice, was succinctly described in 1928 as "gin and a spot of lime." Its origins trace back to its purported service to sailors in the British Royal Navy as a scurvy-fighting concoction before gaining widespread popularity in 1953.
In the late 1880s, scurvy posed a significant threat to sailors on British warships, causing millions of fatalities throughout history due to a lack of Vitamin C. The most effective preventative measure at the time was the consumption of citrus fruit juice. The challenge, however, was that fruits were often spoiled during extended sea voyages. Enter Rose’s Lime Cordial, the precursor to today's Rose’s Lime Juice. Developed as the world's first fruit concentrate, it quickly became the citrus juice of choice on warships, offering a practical solution to combat scurvy and leaving a lasting impact on the world of cocktails.
The lime juice proved challenging to ingest, prompting the intervention of Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Gimlette. He recognised the simplest way to make anything more palatable is to add liquor. Thus, he added gin to Rose’s Lime Cordial, giving birth to a timeless cocktail in the most unassuming of circumstances.
While traditionally made with gin, the Gimlet can also feature vodka, and some variations incorporate fresh lime in addition to Rose’s. The cocktail surged in popularity following its mention in Raymond Chandler's 1953 novel, The Long Goodbye. The protagonist, Philip Marlowe, insisted, "A real Gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else."
Notably, a gimlet was also the name of a hand tool used on ships to pierce barrels of spirits. While some assert that the drink derived its name from this tool, conventional wisdom aligns with the theory of Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Gimlette's contribution.
The recipe of this drink can be traced to renowned mixologist Harry MacElhone’s comprehensive 1923 guide, Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails, where the author remarked the drink was “a highly favoured concoction in the Navy.” The recipe called for half Plymouth Gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial, with a simple directive: "Stir, and serve in the same glass.
Even the venerable Ernest Hemingway, an aficionado of Raymond Chandler's works and all things alcoholic, favoured the Gimlet. On African safaris, Hemingway was rarely without his Gordon’s Gin and a flask of Rose’s Lime Juice.
Contemporary Gimlets have embraced creative liberties with the original recipe. In the current era of craft cocktails, the trend veers towards a subdued use of Rose’s, opting instead for fresh lime juice, simple syrup, and a more potent gin ratio at three-to-one.
Add the gin, lime cordial to a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.
Garnish with a lime wheel.