This week’s cocktail began its life as a remedy for scurvy in the Royal Navy but found fame in America in the works of Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Chandler. A mixture of lime and gin, it’s the mighty Gimlet!

The Gimlet would not exist without Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial. Its inventor, Scotsman Lauchlan Rose, had the brilliant idea of preserving limes in sugar rather than alcohol. It was used by the Royal Navy as a source of vitamin C to prevent scurvy among sailors. The Gimlet, a mixture of gin and Rose’s, could have got its name from Surgeon Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Desmond Gimlette (what a title!) who prescribed the drink to the crew on his ship. Or it might be named after a hand tool used to make holes in barrels. Nobody is quite sure.

Loved by writers as well as sailors

It may have started life in Britain’s navy but the Gimlet proved particularly popular on the other side of the Atlantic. It crops up in works by Ernest Hemingway and most notably in Raymond Chandler. Naturally, there is much debate about how to make it perfectly. A character in Chandler’s The Long Goodbye reckoned “a real Gimlet should be half gin and half Rose’s lime juice and nothing else. It beats Martinis hollow.” That sounds much too sweet for me. One recipe I came across even suggested making your own lime cordial. There’s really no need as Rose’s Lime Juice is a great ingredient. Unlike some other syrups, Rose’s is still made from real fruit (though the US version is made with high fructose corn syrup rather than sugar). It has a very distinct flavour like traditional English sweets (candy to our American readers). I think it works best mixed half and half with fresh lime juice.

Then it’s a question of what kind of gin to use. You could experiment with gins with citrus fruit botanicals. The obvious choice would be Tanqueray Rangpur, made with limes, or it would be fun to experiment with Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla (sweet oranges so omit the sugar syrup) or even Spit-Roasted Pineapple gin (also quite sweet). But I want to use a gin that would have been familiar to Chandler so I’ve gone for standard Tanqueray which at 43.1% ABV has that useful extra bit of alcohol over its main rivals, Gordon’s and Beefeater. 

Gimlet Cocktail

The Gimlet in all its limey glory

How to make a Gimlet

A splash of orange bitters is a great addition. You can use half lemon and half lime juice to make it a little fresher, or use vodka instead of gin which makes it basically alcoholic lime cordial. A splash of soda really is nice or you could add more than a splash, some ice, and turn it into a long drink. This recipe is a nice mixture of that classic candied Rose’s flavour with fresh limes and gin. 

Right, let’s Gimlet!

40ml Tanqueray Export Strength gin
10ml Rose’s Lime Cordial
10ml fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon sugar syrup

Add all the ingredients to a shaker, shake with lots of ice, double strain into a chilled coupe, and serve with a slice of lime.