For a perfect Gin Rickey, you need only three ingredients. Gin, fresh lime juice, and chilled soda water. And as the drink works beautifully without any additional sweetening, it's also comparably low in calories. So besides being refreshing, it is also perfect when you're on a diet.
And unlike the majority of other cocktails, the Rickey cocktail is a drink with a well-documented history. We know when, where, and who created it first, and even why it's named a Rickey. So let's find out more about this drink and how it became the official cocktail of Washington, D.C.
The story of the Rickey cocktail
The story of the Rickey cocktail begins in Washington during the 19th century at a place called Shoomaker's bar. Shoomaker's was a popular venue that opened in 1858 and was owned and managed by two German immigrants. It was there that a bartender named George A. Williamson created the first-ever Rickey cocktail in the 1880s.
At first, the Rickey didn't contain Gin but Bourbon. However, only a decade later, a twist incorporating Gin instead of Bourbon was why the cocktail became so popular. So popular that it was later declared an official cocktail of the city of Washington. But why was it named Rickey?
The drink owes its name to Joe Rickey, a Democrat living in Washington when Williamson invented the drink. And also, he had a preference for sugar-free drinks. That showed in his favorite drink, which was a classic bourbon soda highball, as well. The story goes that the Rickey cocktail was a co-production by Rickey and Williamson as they experimented with adding lime to the initially even more simple two-ingredient recipe.
Other guests quickly picked up the name and kept on ordering a "Rickey" or a "Joe Rickey". The drink's popularity quickly grew, and people began to create twists on the recipe. And decade after the first Bourbon Rickey was served to a customer, the Gin Rickey came around. And with it, the orders and the enthusiasm for the drink skyrocketed. The Bourbon, lime, and soda combination already had worked well, but Gin with its various botanicals was an even better match - only think of a Gimlet.
The Gin Rickey was a super successful cocktail for decades. It even appeared in "The Great Gatsby" in 1925. Then, almost 100 years later, in 2011, it eventually became the official cocktail of Washington. And the cocktail has clearly left its mark on Washington. Every July, bars celebrate the cocktail by calling out "Rickey Month". So if you ever should be in Washington during summer, join the celebration and order a Gin Rickey.
Which Gin for a Gin Rickey
The taste of a Gin Rickey heavily depends on the quality and type of Gin. But with so many different Gin available, it is always a challenge to choose. My suggestion here is to stay traditional. Back in the 1890s, there weren't that diverse flavor profiles in Gins. Most of them were juniper forward with only slight differences due to the botanicals used during distillation. Therefore, I recommend a classic London Dry or Dry Gin with a strong juniper note.
Sipsmith'S VJOP. is a good choice if you prefer something more powerful. VJOP stands for "Very Junipery Over Proof". And juniper is what you get, alright. Other great options are a classic Tanqueray 10 and the more fruity option Beefeater 24.
How to make a Gin Rickey
You don't need much to make a decent Gin Rickey. Unlike most cocktails, you don't have to use a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Instead, you can build the drink directly in the cocktail glass. And all that's required to make a Gin Rickey at home is:
- A Highball or Collins glass
- Ice cubes
- Lime juice
- Chilled soda water
You solely fill up your glass with ice cubes and let them sit for a bit to cool it down. It also helps to chill your Gin and soda water before usage as, otherwise, the ice will melt much faster, causing unwanted dilution to the drink.
Once the glass is cooled down, add Gin and lime juice first. Then fill it up with soda water and quickly stir the drink before drinking.
- 2 oz Dry Gin
- 0.5 oz Fresh lime juice
- 4 oz Chilled club soda
- Fill glass with ice cubes and set aside.
- Pour in Gin and lime juice. Top up with chilled soda water.
- Stir and optionally garnish with lime wedge or wheel.