The best mixologists boast a mental library of complex and unusual recipes. But, as with chefs, the real test of their skill is often how they execute the simplest recipes.
Enter the gimlet.
Imagine a take on the martini that’s tailored more towards Jay Gatsby than James Bond. Like it’s more famous cousin, an authentic gimlet is gin based, but also works well with vodka instead. It’s also just two ingredients poured into a cocktail or coupe glass. But unlike a martini, the gin gimlet recipe calls for lime juice instead of vermouth.
The original is also less fiddly. You can eyeball the measurements quite easily. According to The Savoy Cocktail Book, published in 1930, the authentic gin gimlet recipe calls for equal parts gin and lime juice.
The cocktail’s origins are unclear, but one story suggests it was created by Captain Gimlette – a British naval surgeon – to encourage sailors to drink more scurvy-battling lime juice. What we do know is that it was later popularised in the stories of Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Chandler.
Unsurprisingly, modern variants usually go for a less sour ratio of gin to lime, often including syrup as well. The use of syrup also allows for additional flavours to be used – but we’ll get to that later.
Classic gimlet recipe
(Makes one cocktail gimlet)
- 60ml gin
- 25ml lime juice
- 25ml simple syrup
Measure the gin, lime juice and syrup into a cocktail shaker. Then fill the shaker halfway with ice, cover, and shake thoroughly until very cold. Strain the liquid from the shaker into a cocktail or coupe glass and garnish with a slice of lime.
If you don’t have simple syrup, it’s not hard to make your own (hence the name). Just mix equal parts sugar and water in a pot and stir occasionally as you bring it to a simmer. Once the mixture is hot and the sugar completely dissolved, take it off the heat and allow it to cool completely. Then transfer it to a jar or bottle and refrigerate until needed. It should keep for several weeks.
Gimlet variations and tips
If the classic gimlet sounds too strong or too sour for you, simply top it off with a splash of soda water. And if gin isn’t your thing, vodka is a popular alternative.
You might also try a rosemary gimlet. This recipe comes courtesy of Californian chef and author David Lebovitz. Just be sure to prepare a rosemary syrup in advance by following the simple syrup directions above and adding 2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped rosemary leaves. Garnish the finished cocktail with a sprig of fresh rosemary instead of the lime slice.
Don’t be afraid to play around with other herbs in your syrup. Basil gimlets are also delicious and mint syrup is recommended should you try substituting gin for mezcal.
Then again, maybe you’d rather skip the syrup altogether. As previously mentioned, the original gimlet was simply equal parts gin and lime juice, but you could also swap the syrup for elderflower liqueur, and voila – you have a French gimlet. (Seriously, that’s what it’s called.)
One last thing to remember: the better the gin (or vodka, or mezcal), the better the gimlet.