The Story Behind The Vodka Gimlet
Originally made with gin, the Gimlet is a simple, shaken cocktail crafted out of necessity.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, before the scurvy-fighting benefits of citrus fruits were fully realized, the disease was wiping out British sailors in droves. After scientists discovered that citrus could provide all-important vitamin C, the British government passed the Merchant Shipping Act in 1867, which “mandated that British merchant ships stock rations of lime juice to prevent scurvy,” according to Paul Clarke’s entry in “The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails.”
Later that year, Lauchlan Rose of Edinburgh began distributing its alcohol-free Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial, which became a staple aboard every ship departing out of British ports. Henceforth, to offset the syrupy sweetness of this mass-market cordial, sailors began mixing it with gin, and the Gimlet was born. As for the name, legend has it that Sir Thomas D. Gimlet, surgeon of the British Royal Navy, created the very first one.
Over the years, the Gimlet fell into relative obscurity, and eventually came to resemble a gin-based Daiquiri, with lime juice and simple syrup included in favor of cordial. The vodka version of the Gimlet came about in the ‘50s when Smirnoff vodka launched a massively successful ad campaign showcasing Hollywood celebs enjoying the spirit. This riff is dry and slightly sweet, packing strong aromas of grain and zesty lime.
With just three simple ingredients, the Vodka Gimlet is an easy go-to for home bartenders and professionals alike. But those wishing to take the cocktail to the next level should consider making a historically accurate, authentic lime cordial. It’s a labor-intensive process, but gives a fuller essence of the citrus fruit, with pith and essential oils providing layers of complex flavor.