We sat in the corner bar at Victor’s and drank gimlets. “They don’t know how to make them here,” he 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.”
Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye
The gin gimlet has a long history, probably being drunk as soon as Lauchlan Rose invented his antiscorbutic lime juice drink for sailors in 1862. His aim was to replace the limes preserved in rum, that had previously been enjoyed by the sailors to ward off scurvy, with a non-alcoholic version. He succeeded, but the officers soon discovered that adding it to a tot of gin added considerably to the pleasure.
Cocktail writers in the US take issue with Chandler’s proportions – describing the half-and-half mix as ‘unbearably sweet’. The problem lies not in the proportions, but I think in the American version of Rose’s lime juice (made with high-fructose corn syrup). I mixed my drink with the UK version of the cordial (which, like the Canadian version, lists ‘sugar’ as the sweetening agent), and I found it sweet, but certainly not unbearable – lively, refreshing & very drinkable instead. Really, the drink tasted exactly how you would want a drink to be in a very hot country, and I can imagine British naval officers in the Bahamas mixing exactly this combination. I think the only stipulation for this drink is that it has to be Rose’s lime juice; the alternative brand, made by Britvic, has a less than natural taste. I used the recipe from Schumann’s American Bar for my drink.
2 ozs gin (Gordon’s dry gin here)
1 3/4 ozs Rose’s lime juice cordial
Stir over ice in a mixing glass, then strain into a glass (I can’t imagine Marlowe drinking from a cocktail glass) & garnish with a slice of lime.
Update: Reading the Speakeasy cocktail book, I found they also dismissed the usual lime cordials as being unbearably nasty, and have replaced it with a cordial of their own making. Again, I believe the problem is not the use of cordial, but their choice of brands; I am certain that if they could get their hands on a bottle of UK Rose’s lime cordial, their attitude would be different. I certainly think their cordial is over-complicating one of the simplest drinks around,