I'm sorry I missed this debate when it was raging--hoo-wee! There's some historical stuff that might clear up a little, but by no means all, of the confusion, but before I pitch in with what I know of it I'd better state my principles (and thereby immediately cause half the people in this scrap to recognize me as the no-taste philistine that I am):
I like Rose's lime juice.
Now for the furious backpedaling: I fully agree that it's nothing like real, fresh lime juice; I fully agree that the formula now used is nothing like the original one, since HFCS invariably and utterly corrupts anything it touches; I wouldn't use Rose's in any other drink than a Gimlet.
But for me, it's just not a Gimlet without the stuff. There are plenty of other drinks out there which combine gin and fresh lime juice, many of them better than the Gimlet (I'm particularly partial to the Gin Rickey; see below). But for an according-to-Hoyle Gimlet, it's gotta have that odd...preserved
flavor that only Rose's contributes. (Has anyone ever had loomi
, the Middle-Eastern drink made from dried lemons/limes? It's got that same flavor to it, which suggests that Rose's owes its peculiar flavor to something other than preservatives.)
Historically, there are two schools of Gimlet-making: the British, and the American; with Rose's, and with fresh lime juice. Which is the "real" one?
Going by date alone, the American school seems to get the nod: as far as I can tell, it was the first to see print, with the following formula from Tom Bullock's 1917 Ideal Bartender
"Use a large Mixing glass; fill with Lump Ice.
Juice 1/2 Lime.
1 1/2 jiggers Burnette's Old Tom Gin.
1/2 teaspoonful Bar Sugar.
Stir well and strain into Cocktail glass."
There's only one problem with this: Bullock calls this the "Gillette" cocktail (and adds that it's "Chicago Style"; why, he does not explain). But names for new or obscure cocktails tend to vary quite a bit, and this is the recipe that Mr. Boston picked up and printed in its influential 1935 bar guide as a "Gimlet."
The British school gets into print 5 years after Bullock (at least, that's the earliest mention I've been able to find), in Harry MacElhone's ABC of Mixing Cocktails
(the Savoy Cocktail Book
borrows from this shamelessly), which gives the following recipe:
1/2 Coates' Plymouth Gin
1/2 Rose's Lime Juice Cordial
Stir, and serve in same glass. Can be iced if desired.
A very popular beverage in the Navy."
There are a couple of things about this which suggest strongly that, date notwithstanding, this is the "authentic" recipe, and that it did indeed originate in the Royal Navy.
--The Navy had a huge base in Plymouth, and Plymouth Gin had a long history of popularity among its officers (the ratings had their rum ration, which forced the officers to drink something else in order to maintain the class distinction).
--Rose's, as has been observed, was standard naval issue.
The lack of ice and the proportions of the drink indicate a naval origin as well.
--Ice was scarce or unavailable on ships (when the US invaded Cuba in 1898, the only ice available was on William Randolph Hearst's yacht, which he brought down there to observe his war).
--The proportions, disgustingly sweet by our standards, make more sense when one considers that the spirits the Navy carried were either at "proof" (50% alcohol by weight, or about 114-116 proof by our system) or 4.5 degrees under proof (our 109 proof). If you're mixing overproof gin with no ice, you're going to need a lot more Rose's to make it palatable than if you're shaking normal-proof gin with ice. (BTW--Plymouth has reintroduced a Navy-strength rum, at 114 proof, but it's not yet available here in the US).
To me, the American school is most likely an attempt to recreate the old naval Gimlet in the absence of Rose's Lime Juice. I don't know when Rose's was first introduced to the American market, but it rarely if ever turns up as a cocktail ingredient before the 1930s.
Authentic or not, I like lots of ice in my Gimlet, and a proportion of 4 parts gin to 1 of Rose's.
As for the Rickey:
This drink dates from the 1880s. Originally, as dictated by "Colonel" Joe Rickey, the Missouri-bred Democratic lobbyist who perhaps invented and certainly popularized it, it was made thus:
“The juice of a lime is squeezed into a goblet, which is then filled with crushed ice. The a portion of whiskey or gin, in quantity to suit the taste, is poured in. The glass is then filled up with club soda or carbonic water.”
--(Brooklyn Daily Eagle
, August 7, 1892)
There was some debate about the exact technique--in 1890, the Washington Post
said only half a lime was required, and that the squeezed out shell should go in the glass--but one thing everybody agreed on: absolutely no sugar goes into a Rickey. "This drink...is claimed by its inventor [i.e., Rickey] to be an ideal hot weather beverage. Any drink with sugar in it, he says, heats the blood, while the 'Rickey,' with its blood-cooling lime juice, is highly beneficial" (Daily Eagle
Rickey was right.
Edited by Splificator, 12 August 2004 - 10:37 AM.