When the heat and humidity kick into high gear, and the air is stifling, a cooling bracer is in order. I’ve always been of the opinion, that when it comes to muggy weather, a martini or a Manhattan is a little too nuanced.
What the body really needs an elemental libation that is potent, but not too strong, slightly sweet, but with a pleasing, tangy bite that reawakens the senses. That would be the gimlet cocktail.
A simple concoction of gin and Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial, the gimlet is a delicious and enduring classic. Its biggest boost in popularity came in the 1950s, when novelist Raymond Chandler weaved it into his in his novel “The Long Goodbye.”
Chandler uses the gimlet cocktail to lubricate and ultimately anchor the friendship between private detective Philip Marlowe and Terry Lennox, an alcoholic British ex-pat around whom the novel turns. As Marlow recalls early in the book:
We sat in the corner bar at Victor’s and drank gimlets. “They don’t know how to make them here,” [Lennox] said. “What they call a gimlet is just some lime or lemon juice and gin with a dash of sugar and bitters. A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow.”
The 1:1 ratio between gin and Rose’s Lime Juice cordial is traditional, but too sweet. My own longstanding recipe calls for much more gin. But the essential ingredients have always been sacrosanct in my book, and Chandler captures it exactly right — it must be sweet and sharp.
Yet many bartenders who take their craft seriously eschew the Rose Lime Juice Cordial because, well, it is gross — on its own. While at one time it was made of natural ingredients, for a long while now it has been packed full of artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup and unnatural-looking artificial colors. Used judiciously, however, it provides that essential bracing, bitter, tart edge to a gimlet.
Fresh lime juice doesn’t deliver in this respect, even when mixed with sugar or simple syrup. Indeed, the gimlet is one of those rare exceptions to the general rule that fresh fruit juice must always be used for the cocktail to taste any good. Hence, I’ve never deviated from using Rose’s. Until now.
I recently opted to try the home-made Lime Juice Cordial of legendary barman Jeffrey Morgenthaler, of Portland, Ore.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Lime Cordial
250 grams sugar
8 ounces/240 milliliter hot water (doesn’t have to be boiling; a minute and half in the microwave should do it)
1½ ounces/45 milliliters fresh lime juice (measured by volume; it should be one large or two small lime’s worth)
1½ ounces/45 milliliters freshly grated lime peel (measured by volume; it should be one large or two small lime’s worth)
1 ounce/30 millileters citric acid (measured by volume); this requires kosher certification, but there are dozens of brands available with such certification — I used the OU-certified Modernist Pantry brand ($6 for 2oz on Amazon.com)
Blend all ingredients in a blender on medium for 30 seconds. Strain with a fine strainer. Bottle and refrigerate.
With this elixir, you can sling gimlets for yourself, friends and family that are truly and utterly sublime.
Try this recipe:
1 ½ to 2 ounces of Plymouth Gin (any London Dry style works, but Plymouth works particularly well)
1 ounce of homemade Lime Juice Cordial (my old recipe called for ¾ ounce of the Rose’s Lime Juice cordial)
Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with hard cracked ice and shake until well chilled (12-15 seconds). Strain into chilled cocktail (martini) glass or into an old-fashioned or rocks glass over ice. L’chaim!
Send your wine and spirits questions to Joshua E. London at [email protected]