We’re pleased to introduce our new series, Around the World in 50 Classic Cocktails, where we’ll be exploring the origins of all the most wonderful gin serves. First up: the Gin Rickey…
Washington, DC certainly doesn’t rival New Orleans when it comes to iconic cocktail culture. But the American capital does have one compelling claim to cocktail fame. That would be the Gin Rickey, which was invented here in the late 19th century. Though the drink was actually first made with whiskey (and, in that iteration, is known as the Joe Rickey – more on that in a minute), those who had to sit out Washington’s scorching, humid summers quickly realised that gin was the most refreshing choice of all. And thus, a classic was born.
Unlike many classic cocktails, whose mysterious origins are an essential element of their allure, the Gin Rickey’s beginnings are (relatively) straightforward. The drink’s invention can be traced back to one Colonel Joe Rickey, a lobbyist who worked in Washington (and frequently enjoyed his tipples at nearby Shoomaker’s Bar, a popular watering hole for government workers).
July: in DC is Gin Rickey month, as is befitting the middle of summer.
Rickey had a reputation for taking his drinks dry, and typically enjoyed his whiskey brightened up with a splash of fizzy water. To that mix he added a squeeze of lemon – not lime, though lime juice soon became the preferred option as the drink grew in popularity – and there began the Rickey. It quickly became a staple cocktail at Shoomaker’s, and from there spread around the city.
Today, if you visit Washington, DC, you’re still likely to encounter the Gin Rickey, particularly if you plan your visit for July: the DC Craft Bartenders Guild has proclaimed it Gin Rickey month, as is befitting the middle of summer.
But even if you can’t make the trip, it’s simple enough to make the Gin Rickey yourself. Before you do, however, heed a few simple tips. For starters, don’t even think about adding sugar to your cocktail: the Rickey is a resolutely dry and drinkable serve, and Joe Rickey certainly wouldn’t approve (f it’s sweet you’re after, opt for a Tom Collins instead). This simple cocktail only includes three ingredients, so it’s also especially important that they’re high quality. And, as with all cocktails, don’t forget about the quality (and quantity) of your ice. Here’s how to make bar-quality ice at home.
Of course, you can always get creative with your Rickey: we’ve seen iterations with everything from rosemary to rosewater. But master the classic first, and you’ll be able to make this summery staple whenever the temperature rises.
Get creative with your Rickey: we’ve seen iterations with everything from rosemary to rosewater.
The Gin Rickey
Adapted from David Wondrich
In a highball or Collins glass filled with very cold ice, squeeze the juice of ½ lime. Add the gin and throw in the lime half after it, as is traditional. Top with fizzy water and serve, no stirring required.