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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.

2 comments to The Gimlet, and How to Make Lime Cordial

  • Paul

    Really interesting article Randy. You always go the extra mile to get the best of the stuff you present. Do you think the lime cordial keeps for some time or can you add an ounce or two of vodka depending on how much you make to help preserve it? I will definitely try it some day.

    • Paul, with the sugar and acid you may not need the vodka if you sterized the bottle and you are careful to keep everything clean. You may need to shake to emulsify the lime oil once in a while. Mine has kept for a few months now. Preserved lime juice ought to do just that--preserve. But, as with all homemade stuff, you could top with a little vodka. It cannot hurt.

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