If James Bond solidified the Martini’s place in cocktail history, then private detective Philip Marlowe put the Gimlet on the map in The Long Goodbye.
Author Raymond Chandler became well known for creating a genre of “hard-boiled” detective stories, which were commonly considered “vehicles for social commentary.” Chandler first tried the Gimlet with his wife Cissy when they were aboard the RMS Mauretania on their way home from London. He revised his novel to include the drink because they loved it so much.
Most historians believe Chandler had a habit of blurring the line between his own life and that of his main character, Philip Marlowe, and one thing they definitely had in common was an affinity for the Gimlet. Chandler popularized the drink in 1953 when he had the detective famously say “A real Gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats Martinis hollow.” With that, the Gimlet became an instant symbol for manliness. As the novel continued to gain notoriety, the Gimlet quickly followed.
Raymond Chandler may have helped boost the Gimlet’s popularity, but he was not the creator of this classic cocktail. It’s believed that the British Royal Navy was the first to concoct the sweet-tart lime libation. It’s unclear whether the Gimlet was named after a tool of the same name (used to drill small holes) or after the famous surgeon, Admiral Sir Thomas Gimlette. Gimlette used a combination of lime cordial and gin to treat sailors suffering from scurvy.
This unfortunate illness is caused by a Vitamin C deficiency, common in those who’d been out at sea with no access to fruit. Limes are very high in Vitamin C, so the Gimlet became sailors’ common cure. In 1867, Rose’s Lime Juice was created as a way to preserve lime juice without alcohol. The Navy was quick to utilize it, not only to treat scurvy, but also to cut down the strength of the Navy’s 114 proof gin.
The ratio of Rose’s Lime juice to gin has gradually changed over the years from 1:1 (considered too sweet by most) to two parts gin and one part lime. Some bartenders use simple syrup and fresh lime juice, which is how we prefer to make this classic. Vodka has become a popular alternative base for the Gimlet, which means you typically need to specify which spirit you want when ordering the drink.
- 2 oz. Gin
- .75 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
- .75 oz. Simple Syrup
- Lime Twist (to Garnish, Optional)
Preparation: Add liquid ingredients to a shaker tin with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a lime twist, if desired.