Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Today's History Lesson: The Gimlet


n. A cocktail, usually consisting of gin and lime juice
—Oxford English Dictionary

A Gimlet is one of those drinks where its beauty is in its simplicity. And since it has some historical significance, I thought I’d share it with you.

According to various sources, Sir Thomas Gimlette – a British surgeon, who was looking for a way to prevent scurvy in British sailors and later became the Surgeon General, invented the drink in the late 19th century. The Merchant Shipping Act of 1867 to require all ships of the British military and merchant fleet to provide sailors with a regular dollop of lime juice—leading to the nickname “limey” for English immigrants in the early British colonies. What made this possible was a now-ubiquitous cocktail mixer. By the time the act was passed, Lauchlin Rose had patented a method for preserving citrus juice in a sugar syrup without alcohol—Rose’s Lime Juice.

All of which leads us to the beloved Dr. Thomas Gimlette, who supposedly joined the Royal Navy in 1879. It took him eleven years, but Gimlette finally hit on a solution for encouraging sailors to drink their daily dose of lime juice—adding gin. The now infamous surgeon cum bartender was subsequently knighted and eventually retired as the British Surgeon General in 1913.

The gimlet, like the ubiquitious martini, is made with gin. Many, including me, enjoy a vodka gimlet. If you want a vodka gimlet in my bar, you better order it that way. Otherwise you will get gin and lime juice on ice.

According to Raymond Chandler, that there’s only one proper way to mix a proper gimlet, as Terry Lenox explains to Philip Marlowe:

“A real Gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats Martinis hollow.”

Most drinkers today prefer 1 1/2 oz gin and 3/4 oz lime juice over ice.

I make my "gimlet" with 2 oz Smirnoff® vodka and half a fresh lime, over ice.

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