The Gimlet (mid 1800s) | Santa Fe Sips

By Matt Mathai

Did you know that every creature on earth produces its own vitamin C? Well, except, that is, for guinea pigs, capybaras, bats and primates, including humans. You might consider this a flaw in our design. Or, if you choose, you could be thankful that this ‘flaw’ led directly to the invention of one of the best cocktails ever created.

The Gimlet (mid 1800s)

From Wikipedia:

  • The word "gimlet” used as a cocktail name was first attested in 1928. The most obvious derivation is from the tool for drilling small holes, a word also used figuratively to describe something as sharp or piercing. Thus, the cocktail may have been named for its "penetrating" effects on the drinker.

  • Another theory is that the drink was named after the British Royal Navy surgeon Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Gimlette (1857–1943), who allegedly introduced this drink as a means of inducing his messmates to take lime juice as an anti-scurvy medication. However, this isn’t actually documented anywhere.

As an aside, English sailors became well known for their use of citrus juice to stave off scurvy. Limes, being easiest to preserve, became the citrus of choice, which naturally led to the English being nicknamed ‘limeys’.

A classic gimlet contains gin and lime cordial - nothing else. You can make a very nice drink with gin, lime juice and simple syrup, but it won’t be a classic gimlet. Since 1867, the lime cordial of choice has been Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial. Sadly, the US version became a mess some years ago when they began using high-fructose corn syrup as an ingredient.

As part of my general experimentation, I used Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s recipe (listed below) to make lime juice cordial and used that cordial to make an amazing gimlet.

This is a great drink! It’s like a lime and sugar slap in the face. It’s tart, sweet, and refreshing. If you’re not taken aback by the tartness of your first sip, you’ve made the lime cordial incorrectly. It’s an amazing drink and has forced its way into my regular rotation.

Best of all, it lends itself to batching - all you need is gin, lime cordial, and copious amounts of ice and you can take your cocktail show on the road. Think how happy your friends will be when you show up at their door with a mini gimlet factory all set to go!


The Gimlet


  • 2 oz gin

  • 1 oz lime cordial

  • Garnish: lime twist (optional)


  • Chill a coupe glass

  • Add the ingredients into a cocktail shaker

  • Add ice and shake vigorously for about 10 seconds

  • Strain into the coupe glass

  • Garnish with a lime twist (only if you really feel you have to)


  1. Gin: I use Beefeater gin because I use it in all my gin drinks but any London Dry style of gin will do. Old-school gimlets were all made with Plymouth gin (drier than London Dry gins, but more citrusy and more botanical.) If you can find it, they have a higher proof “Navy Strength” version (57% ABV) that works well.

  2. Recipe Proportions: I use 2:1 gin to lime cordial. If that’s too tart for you, try it with a bit less cordial, say ¾ oz instead of 1 oz.


Lime Cordial

The traditional mix of lime and sugar was commercialized originally as Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial (patented by Lauchlan Rose in 1867.) Jeffrey Morgenthaler recreated the recipe and it’s really easy to make. The only pain is finding citric acid, and even that’s not too tough