With all the hullabaloo around canned cocktails and hard seltzer this summer, you may have overlooked a few durable classics — the ones that have been providing relief from the heat for at least 100 years. Case in point: the gimlet, a simple formula of gin, fresh lime juice, and sugar, though sweet Rose’s Lime Juice has been an acceptable stand-in for most of the last century. The drink is said to date back to the late 18th century, when British Navy doctor Sir Thomas Gimlette developed it as a means for sailors to get their daily measure of vitamin C to ward off scurvy.
Think of that straightforward recipe like an original studio recording, a low-fi expression of a standard. Ryan Lotz, beverage director for Traveler Street Hospitality, which includes Bar Mezzana, Shore Leave, and Black Lamb, cranks his gimlet up to surround-sound-stereo-caliber flavor at Black Lamb, amping up the lime element with grapefruit zest and salt, which reins in the sugar’s sweetness.
True to its standing as a classic composition, this one is open to interpretation. Many, many interpretations. A vodka gimlet is the most obvious twist, but you can also use white rum, which virtually makes it a daiquiri, or substitute tequila for gin and you have a minimalist margarita. If you’re looking for something lighter, pour a few measures of the cordial into a flute and top it off with sparkling wine. Or for an even lighter option, use soda water.
Despite the gimlet being around for more than a century, it’s hard not to think of it as thoroughly modern, a perfect drink for this moment in time. After all, if the past year-plus has taught us anything, it’s the supreme value of adaptability.
BLACK LAMB GIMLET
Makes 1 drink
2 ounces Beefeater Gin (or any London Dry gin)
1 ounce Salted Grapefruit Lime Cordial (see below)
½ ounce fresh lime juice
1. Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds.
2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Salted Grapefruit & Lime Cordial
1 cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp kosher salt
1. Zest grapefruit and limes, juice the limes.
2. Add all ingredients, including boiling water and citrus zest, to a blender and blend for 30 seconds. Strain through a mesh strainer. Keep refrigerated.
Adapted from Black Lamb