gin rickey cocktail

Gin Rickey

  • Bubbly
  • Dry
  • Tart
  • Gin
  • Lime
  • Soda Water

If you tend to flee from sweeter cocktails, the Gin Rickey may be up your alley. With no sweetener added, it’s about as far from sweet as you could possibly get. Refreshing, simple, and surprisingly balanced, it’s a superb drink for a hot day, always a plus here in Savannah.

About the Recipe

A Rickey is actually a category of cocktail, like a sour. Just as you can have a Whiskey sour or an Amaretto sour, you can also have a Gin Rickey or a Bourbon Rickey. In fact, the bourbon variety was the original! However, it didn’t take long for the Gin Rickey to overtake its older brother and become the most popular version.

Cocktail History

The Rickey hails from our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C and reigns as the official cocktail of the capital. In the 1880s, a Democratic lobbyist named Colonel Joe Rickey frequented a bar called Shoomaker’s, along with just about every other politician in Washington. A vivid description of the saloon appears in a 1909 book by the author Elbert Hubbard:

“… the place is guiltless of paint, and the architecture is an eyesore to the surrounding neighbors … The shabbiness of the place is its asset; the cobwebs are its charm.”

It’s in this divey joint that Joe Rickey added a lime to his usual bourbon highball and the Rickey was born. Much to Joe’s dismay, the gin version of the drink soon eclipsed his original, as American preferences moved away from whiskey. With gin’s explosion in popularity during Prohibition, the Gin Rickey went along with it. It quickly became one of the more popular orders of the time, long after Shoomaker’s fell victim to Prohibition.

So trendy was the Gin Rickey during the Roaring 20s that it scored a mention in the preeminent novel of the time: The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The cocktail sneaks into the climax of the book as the conflict over the love of Daisy Buchanan spills out into the open. Sweaty and irritated on the hottest day of the summer, the group drinks Gin Rickeys in “long, greedy swallows.” By the end of the tense scene, Gatsby and Daisy leave in his yellow car, barreling towards the novel’s tragic conclusion.

There’s not a lot in the Fitzgerald novel we’d recommend imitating, but a Gin Rickey on a hot day is one choice we can get behind.