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The Gimlet, and How to Make Lime Cordial

We have often cited the importance of using fresh juice in cocktails, and we stand behind the idea. One of the easiest ways to up your game when making amazing craft cocktails is to always use fresh juice. Of course, many rules have exceptions, and the fresh juice rule has but one: The Gimlet.

The Gimlet is a classic English cocktail that uses lime cordial, not fresh-squeezed lime juice. We are talking about Rose's Sweetened Lime Juice—a bottled product that is intensely sour and painfully sweet. It is effectively a preserved lime juice product that contains sugar, and as such, it cannot be a substitute for actual lime juice in other recipes. Yet, bartenders and ignorant enthusiasts have been using Rose's for years when they should have been squeezing actual limes. All recipes that call for lime juice get ruined when you use Rose's. Just don't do it. However, the Gimlet stands apart by turning this logic upside-down, specifically calling for the bottled stuff. Sure, you can make a Gimlet with fresh lime and it will be a decent rendition, but it's not a true Gimlet without lime cordial, and people who like them will know the difference.

We have enjoyed the Gimlet since before the modern cocktail renaissance, but we sorta gave up on it early when we decided to stop using Rose's Lime Juice in drinks. Our cocktail repertoire is much better as a result, but the time as come to return to this classic and to do it right. This is really the ONLY cocktail you should ever make with Rose's Lime, and we are going to do it even better by avoiding the commercial product completely! Surely, a homemade lime cordial that avoids artificial flavors and questionable sweeteners is much better than anything you can buy in a bottle.

How to make lime cordial
Start with a dozen limes. Thoroughly wash them to remove any pesticides and wax residue. Remove the flavorful peel using a microplane zester and set the zest aside. Cut the limes and juice them. Strain all of the pulp out and reserve just the liquid. Measure this juice and combine it with an equal volume of sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, add the zest you saved earlier and allow this to soak and cool for 20 minutes or an hour. This will draw flavorful oils from the zest and darken the liquid. Finally, strain and bottle. Keep refrigerated for weeks or months.

It's that easy, and because this recipe is self-referencing for volume, it can be divided based on the number of limes you have. You may want to try a smaller amount to start out. In any case, making this yourself is so simple that there is no reason to buy a commercial product filled with artificial ingredients and corn syrup.

The Gimlet Cocktail
Now that you have your lime cordial, it is time to make a Gimlet. Fortunately, the Gimlet is one of the easiest cocktails to make, and technically, once you have the cordial, you don't need fresh fruit. You also have spirit options. Traditionally, this is a gin-based drink, but you can make a vodka gimlet by changing the base spirit. However, even if you don't consider yourself a gin drinker, we encourage you to try both versions. It may surprise you how gin interacts with the lime cordial in ways that vodka never can. When we used to drink Gimlets in years past it was always the vodka variation, but we understand now why this is better with gin. Since vodka is flavor-neutral it brings nothing to the glass. But with gin, you open up all sorts of possibilities. These days there are so many fantastic gins to choose from that offer a huge variety of flavors. The botanical mix can have a profound affect on this cocktail overall, so it is hard not to enjoy exploring the diversity that each brand contributes to such a simple recipe. From floral nuances to spice and citrus, this drink is much better with gin. We won't bother with vodka from now on, as it represents just one version: the plain lime version.

Gimlet
2 oz gin (or vodka, but why?)
2/3 oz lime cordial (see recipe above, or Rose's if you must)

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Bloody Mario

It is no secret that we are not fans of tomato juice. Consequently, we have never written about that famous classic, the Bloody Mary. Of course, we recognize that many of our readers probably enjoy this morning pick-me-up and it has been somewhat irresponsible to ignore it for so long. We thought it might be time to set aside our foolish challenges and come to the table with a working recipe. And then it hit us: While we may not like tomato juice, we absolutely love pizza! It's a wonder we hadn't thought of this before.

Just in time for spring, and for all of our fellow pizza lovers, we give you the Bloody Mario. No, it has nothing to do with video games or mustachioed plumbers in colorful suspenders. This is an honest cocktail, modeled after the Bloody Mary, but one with more Italian flair. Think of it as

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Organize Your Bitters

If you are like us, you have collected quite a few bitters brands over the years. Cocktail bitters typically come in "woozy" bottles for dashing small quantities into drinks. However, not all of them are sized consistently. There are flat narrow bottles, short stocky sizes, and some that are huge compared to others. We buy Angostura, for example, in big 18-ounce bottles—not a very convenient size to keep at the ready wherever you mix drinks. Our solution is to use small eye-dropper bottles for everything. They store easily and can be labeled using simple envelope address stickers (for laser printing, we like self-adhesive 1" x 2-5/8" address label sheets). Some brands like Bittercube already market their products in 1-ounce dropper bottles. This not only saves space, but allows precision when you need it. For example, administering dashes is easy enough with just a squirt from the dropper, but you can

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White Whiskey

White whiskey has many names. It can be marketed as white dog or white lightning, or even the yokel moonshine, although that usually refers to illicit varieties. A few things are clear, however, besides this unusual spirit. First, it is an unaged product, meaning it does not typically spend time in oak barrels. Second, because it is whiskey, it is a distillate made from fermented grain. This is where products differ. Depending on the grain used, where it is farmed, the water added, and of course, the distillation process itself, one white whiskey can taste dramatically different from another.

Traditionally, whiskey is thought of as a "brown" spirit, but all of that color and much of the flavor comes form the aging process. Time spent in charred oak barrels allows the high concentration of alcohol to extract flavors from the wood. Caramel, vanilla, smoke, fruit, spices—these are all derived from

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Water

It's often a good sign when you sit down at a bar to be greeted by the bartender with a glass of water. We don't drink alcohol to quench our thirst—it's a full-sensory experience—so a glass of water not only satisfies the need for hydration, it also balances the social ritual allowing you to extend the enjoyment of your selected beverage. It sounds like an over-the-top description of simply drinking a glass of water—which it is—but we think every great drink deserves this "sidekick" and we can't over emphasize the importance of drinking water while you drink booze. Whether you ordered the expensive and obscure signature cocktail from the seasonal menu at your favorite bar or you are happily sipping beer at home, water should always be within reach. We don't often feature this unsung hero in photographs, but it is the most important beverage you can drink and serve,

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The Ferrari: a Bartender's Handshake

Often regarded as the "bartender's handshake", a shot of Fernet-Branca has become a modern fixture for bartenders visiting one another at their respective craft cocktail establishments. It is as much a nod from one professional to another as it is confirmation that, as a fellow enthusiast of the craft, your tastes have evolved to the point that an intensely herbal, bitter Italian aperitivo is a perfectly acceptable refreshment that doesn't require extra time mixing up a signature recipe.

Regular patrons can also sometimes upgrade their "bar table image" and gain immediate street credit by ordering Fernet, (or if it's not too busy, requesting a bartender's choice cocktail made with the stuff). Calling out Fernet-Branca is still unusual enough—even in better bars—that it might earn you a smile or a double-take from the bartender and occasionally leads to conversations about ingredients or recipe construction. But, sipping Fernet neat is just

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Final Say

There are a handful of cocktails in our experience that anyone reading this should recognize, or at the very least, drinks you should try. One example is the Last Word—a forgotten classic until it was unearthed by Seattle bartending legend Murray Stenson of Zig Zag Café. To the uninitiated, its bold and unusual flavor profile featuring both Luxardo maraschino liqueur and Green Chartreuse can be a revelation. The fact that it is citrus-based makes it accessible, and if you are a self-proclaimed gin hater, it is a drink that can definitely open your mind to the wonderful possibilities that a good craft cocktail can offer. Don't feel like you need to make the Last Word before you try today's feature, but if you haven't had the pleasure you are certainly missing out. Knowing one drink can also serve as a convenient benchmark for judging another.

As good as

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