RECIPE: Gin Rickey Cocktail | The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures - The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures RECIPE: Gin Rickey Cocktail | The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures
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RECIPE: Gin Rickey Cocktail

Gin Rickey. Photo courtesy Tanqueray.
  First: What is a rickey?

It’s a highball—a fizzy whiskey drink mixed with club soda or ginger ale and served with ice in a tall glass. A rickey is made from gin or bourbon, fresh lime juice, carbonated water and ice. Sometimes sugar is added, largely to satisfy the sweet-seeking American palate. It’s not part of the original recipe. Tell the bartender not to put any in yours.

The rickey was created with bourbon in the 1880s, at Shoomaker’s bar in Washington, D.C. The story handed down is that it was a collaboration between bartender George A. Williamson and a good customer, Democratic lobbyist Colonel Joe Rickey.

In the bar for his morning glass of bourbon and Apollinaris sparkling mineral water, with lump ice, history was changed when one day, half a lime was squeezed into, then dropped into, the glass. The guess is that the lime was the bartender’s twist.

Colonel Rickey may have preferred bourbon, but the cocktail became a worldwide sensation a decade later when gin was substituted to create the Gin Rickey (check out the different types of gin below.

There are also virgin rickeys, soda fountain drinks made with lime syrup and soda water; a raspberry-lime rickey adds raspberry syrup.


The tall iced drink has always been a popular summer cocktail, and the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild established July as Rickey Month.


  • Ice cubes
  • 1.25 ounces London Dry Gin (see below)
  • .25 ounce lime juice
  • 1 ounce soda water
  • Garnish: line wedge


    1. ADD gin and fresh lime juice to an ice-filled collins glass. Stir.

    2. ADD soda water, stir gently. Garnish with a lime wedge and serve.

    There are four different types of gin:

  • American Gin. American Gin is produced using one of two standard methods: distilling, made by adding the flavoring agents during a continuous process; and redistillation, where the fermented mash is first distilled into a flavorless neutral spirit. Gin is relatively easy to produce, which was why “bathtub gin” was available in speakeasies during Prohibition. As a result, gin cocktails remained popular after the repeal of Prohibition. American Dry Gin was pioneered by Philadelphia Distilling in the style of London Dry Gin, but with a heavier concentration of citrus over other botanicals*. Its Bluecoat American Dry Gin was launched in 2007.
    Gin rickey: lots of lime juice makes it cloudy. Photo courtesy
  • Genever or Jenever. The original gin was first made in Holland in a pot still from a grain mash of barley, rye and corn. There are two styles: Oude (old), which has a golden tint and a sweet, aromatic flavor; and Jonge (young), which is drier and has a lighter body. Overall, it is heavy-bodied and strongly flavored with a pronounced malty taste and aroma. This style is popular in The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
  • London Dry Gin. London Dry Gin appeared soon after the continuous still or column still was invented in 1832. The new still made a purer spirit possible, encouraging London distillers to try an unsweetened or dry style (sugars had been used in Genever gins to mask the unpleasant flavors that could appear in pot still production; “dry” means absence of sugar). London Dry Gin was a hit, and became the most common form of gin in the world. It is the style of the big-name gins such as Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire, Gordons, Seagrams and Tanqueray. Originally “London Dry Gin” implied geography; today, Beefeater is the only gin still made in London.
  • Plymouth Gin. This dry, full-bodied, clear, aromatic and somewhat fruity gin was originally distilled as a local gin in Plymouth, England. Today it is made by only one company, Coates & Co. of Plymouth, which owns the right to the name.
  • Sloe Gin. Sloe gin is not technically a gin, but a gin-based liqueur flavored with sweet blackthorn plums (sloes).

    Get a bottle of each of the different types of gin and have a comparative tasting: first straight and then in the two most famous gin cocktails, Gin Rickey and Gin & Tonic. If you want to add Sloe Gin, the best-known drink is the Sloe Gin Fizz.
    *Dry Gin is a complex recipe of botanicals—fruits, herbs and spices from all over the world. There are dozens of possible ingredients; each distiller has its own secret recipe. Popular ingredients include angelica root from Germany, cardamom from Sri Lanka, cassia bark from Southeast Asia, coriander seed from the Czech Republic, orris root from Italy and Seville orange peel from Spain. Most of the juniper berries that comprise the base flavor of gin are imported from Italy. See an example of the ingredients in Martin Miller’s Gin.

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