In my humble opinion, one of the simplest and greatest cocktails is the Gimlet. It not only tastes good, it looks great sitting in a cocktail glass on the bar; For many years it was a very popular cocktail, and recently, it has made a comeback, albeit in a more modified form.
The gimlet's original recipe was gin and later versions included vodka and a product called Rose's Lime Juice. The original proportions were half gin and/or vodka to half Rose's Lime Juice. Over time, the sweetness of Rose's Lime Juice fell out of favor with the changing palates of the time and so the proportion of Lime was decreased to about 2/3 to 3/4 of an ounce to 2 of the base of gin or vodka. This recipe became the one that was used after WWII up until the recent new age of cocktails. Now, Rose's Lime Juice may have a place at the bar, but many bars don't carry it, and many bartenders scoff at its very name.
More than likely, if you go out today to a reputable place to imbibe, and you order a gimlet, it will be made with fresh lime juice and simple syrup. This version of the gimlet has been forged by many of the new cocktailians who simply feel that Rose's is an inferior product that should be banned from the bar. Well, I'm not of that opinion, and I will explain why. First, a bit of history as to what Rose's is and how it came to be.
Rose's was initially invented by the British Navy. Back in the day they used to give lime juice to sailors to fight off scurvy. Originally the lime juice was preserved by using Rum as a preservative, but that led to drunkenness on duty, so they invented a non-alcoholic method of preserving the lime juice. Thus, Rose's was born.
A drink is a drink, and substituting ingredients changes the flavor, weight, and look of it. In the case of the gimlet, using fresh juice makes an excellent drink indeed, but it is closer to a daiquiri than to a gimlet. It would place it in the family of sours like Tom Collins, or caipirinhas which to me are completely different animals than a gimlet. A gimlet is a strong drink with a distinctive sweet sharp tang to it that is refreshing and elegant. It is transparent in appearance, and clean on the palate. Too much Rose's will make the drink cloying, but in the right proportions it works just fine.
I would suggest that our newfound cocktail of vodka or gin with fresh lime juice and simple syrup get itself its own name. It's not a gimlet by definition, and therefore only adds to the confusion when ordered as such. I had a woman chastise me for using fresh juice in her gimlet, and you know what, she was right. I had changed the recipe to bow to the changing times. I should have asked her if she wanted Rose's or fresh lime juice. We could come up with a new name for the drink, say a caipiroska which is a caiparina made with vodka instead of cachaça. Technically you muddle the limes in these drinks so maybe that isn't the answer. But whatever the name is, let's restore the gimlet to its rightful place. If Rose's Lime Juice doesn't pass your definition of a good flavoring agent, fine, so make a new drink that incorporates what you want to use, but stop messing with the gimlet.
So, once again I urge my readers to self-educate themselves by picking up a bottle of Rose's Lime Juice which can be found in pretty much any supermarket and making a gimlet. If you don't like it so sweet, lower the proportion of Rose's to your base of choice.
Here is the recipe for a proper gimlet:
2 oz. Gin or Vodka
2/3 oz. Rose's Lime Juice
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and shake.
Serve in a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a fresh lime wedge
Sit back and enjoy!!
I'll see you when I see you!