Let’s make something simple. You’ve got gin, right? If not we’re really wasting each others’ time here and I suggest you leave. Sugar? Thought so. You can get you hands on a lime, right? Excellent – there can be no excuse. Let’s make some Gimlets.
For such a simple cocktail there’s a lot of confusion about the right way to make a Gimlet. Often there’s Roses Lime cordial, sometimes vodka and I’ve seen some very strange proportions called for. Forget all of that crap – a Gimlet is a gin Daiquiri, simple as that. But don’t be fooled by this simplicity, done right (and really, it’s not that hard) a Gimlet, like a Daiquiri, is a revelatory drink. There’s no confusing the two, each is very much its own drink and each must be a perfect balance of its base spirit and the sweet and sour of the lime and sugar. Each also lets its base spirit express itself perfectly, switching the gin or rum for another brand or style makes a surprising difference to the drink. But let’s drop the noble Daiquiri for now and focus on the Gimlet. Like the Navy Grog the Gimlet is the result of British Navy crew mixing their gin ration with their lime ration (used to prevent scurvy and source of the term “Limey”) and a bit of sweetener. This time though it was for the officers who considered themselves far too civilised to drink uncouth rum. At first a gimlet was a tool for making a small hole in a barrel. I imagine this tool had to be carefully guarded by the officers if the rum and gin rations were to last the entire voyage. The name somehow transferred itself from the tool to the drink. At some point the fresh lime ration was replaced by Roses Lime cordial which had a longer shelf life and still kept the dreaded scurvy away. So for a long time a Gimlet was just gin and Roses. While Roses has its uses mixing 50:50 with gin isn’t one of the better ones so we’re going to dial it back to the fresh stuff.
Your lime juice should be freshly squeezed or at least no more that 6 hours old for optimal Gimletage. If you don’t already have some simple syrup (and you should!) you’ll need to make some a little bit in advance – which is no more difficult than making a cup of tea. Boil the kettle and mix, in a mug or jug, equal quantities of boiled water and sugar. Then add a little bit more sugar (about 10-15% more) because it should really be equal weights of sugar and water and sugar is a bit lighter than water. Stir. Put it in the fridge to cool.
2oz gin of your choice (I use Plymouth gin for the Navy connection)
0.75oz fresh lime juice*
0.5oz sugar syrup* (1:1 as described above)
Shake well with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. A small wine glass is an acceptable substitute.
Toast Scotsman James Lind for curing scurvy with limes and therefore enabling the creation of the Gimlet.
*As with any citrus drink, you can, and should, adjust these to taste as the balance will be dependent on the sourness of your limes and how accurately you made your syrup. You’ll know when it’s right.