Gimlet: A Classic Cocktail with a Southern Twist

Everyone from nineteenth-century British sailors to fictional 1950s detectives reveres this refreshing gin drink

Photo: Margaret Houston

Cocktail: Gimlet
Recipe by Steva Casey
The Atomic Bar & Lounge, Birmingham, Alabama

If you were a British sailor in the late 1800s, drinking a Gimlet might have saved your life. At the time, all Royal Navy vessels carried high-proof gin or rum, of which every sailor was entitled to a daily ration, as well as lime juice, whose vitamin C content wards off scurvy. At some point (perhaps, say some stories, at the suggestion of a rear admiral named Thomas Desmond Gimlette), sailors started adding gin and a little sugar to make the lime juice go down easier, and thus, a classic cocktail was born.

And if you’re a Raymond Chandler fan, you might know that his famous character, the detective Philip Marlowe, also loves Gimlets. In The Long Goodbye, the detective says, “A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats Martinis hollow.”

“A Gimlet is one of my favorite summer things,” says Birmingham, Alabama, bartender Steva Casey. An Alabama native, Casey’s been working behind some of the Magic City’s top bars for more than a decade, currently at the Atomic Bar & Lounge. She also organizes the annual Tiki by the Sea festivals in New Jersey and Italy as well as the International Cocktail Karaoke Showcase. “To me, it’s the basis of a thousand other drinks,” Casey says. “A Bee’s Knees is just a Gimlet with honey in place of sugar; a Daiquiri is just a rum Gimlet.”

Margaret Houston

Casey, unlike Marlowe though, comes down strongly on the side of fresh juice: “When a lot of drinks like the Gimlet were being popularized in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, it was at places that do large production like country clubs and nightclubs. They aren’t gonna be squeezing fresh limes,” she says. “I can see why they did it. But we don’t have to live in those times, so why should we?” As for gin, Casey recommends a traditional London dry gin like Bombay Dry or Beefeater, which offer intense juniper and citrus flavors with clean finishes.


    • 2 oz. Gin

    • 0.75 oz. Lime juice

    • 0.75 oz. Simple syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part water)


  1. Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a coupe glass.