I love gimlets in the sunshine. Especially in those early days of spring when the sun first dares to makes its way out from behind the clouds, when the cherry blossoms pepper the tree-lined streets. As usual when the temperatures start to climb and the drizzle stops, my craving for brown and bitter goes on hiatus and gin takes center stage. Instead I find myself delving into more bright, refreshing tastes. It happens every year like clockwork. I sit in front of those first martinis, daiquiris, and corpse revivers and can almost feel winter dissipate. While those drinks are all quite lovely and dear to my heart, nothing compares to a properly made gimlet--a two-ingredient cocktail that is just so simple and perfect.
As I sat at home drinking a gimlet on one of those sunny days, feeling the cool breeze waft in past the sheer curtains, I started thinking about gin and tonics. To many, that would be the quintessential two-ingredient cocktail that is perfect for spring, summer and many points in between. Gimlets and G&Ts have much in common. Both rely on the wonderfully crisp flavors of the specific gin to provide the foundation. This choice will characterize the entire drink. I prefer navy-strength London Dry gins for this reason with their heavy juniper notes and fuller flavor that can fully stand up the lime cordial.
The tough part is matching the other flavors with the gin. Though limes play an important role in both drinks, a gimlet hinges on those flavors. Since a gimlet recipe calls for lime cordial, not juice, the flavors aren't as easy to match up. For instance, using a lime oleo saccharum to prepare the cordial will provide floral accents in addition the traditional lime flavor. Thus, unforeseen complications can arise when attempting to pair the gin with the cordial. Limes in gin and tonics are paramount, but they do not create the same types of issues. In a G&T the way that the herbal tonic water interacts with the botanics of the gin can make or break the drink. The choice of tonic water equally as important as the choice of gin. Unfortunately, for years that is what ruined gin and tonics for me--ghastly tonic.
For years I thought I hated gin, but in reality it was the tonic. Over the years, I have discovered that not all tonics are gross. Though few and far between, some artisanal tonic water is actually delicious, even on its own. About a year ago my good friend Sonja and I were lamenting the shortcomings of G&Ts. She too was exploring some of the newer products that were available. In the end, she went a step further and made her own tonic syrup. It makes quite a delicious tonic water, though on its own it is bitter, as it should be. With a generous splash of club soda, gin and tonics were transformed far beyond what I had expected.
So as I sat in the afternoon sunshine, feeling that still-present chill, with the ideas of spring and gin swirling through my head, I wondered what would happen if I added a bit of tonic syrup to my gimlet. Just a little to invite some of that bitter quinine to the party and dry out the cordial. The result was better than I imagined. The gimlet retained its refreshing herbaceous qualities, but the complexity it gained made it quite irresistible.
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce lime cordial
1 bar spoon quinine syrup
Shake ingredients until bone-chilling cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Notes on Ingredients: I used Perry's Tot, a navy strength gin made in Brooklyn, NY, homemade lime cordial, and Sonja's quinine syrup.
Further note on quinine syrup: Sonja used the tonic water recipe that she found on Jeffrey Morgenthaler's site. However, there are commercial quinine syrups on the market, though I have not tried either one. Other recipes for tonic syrup are also available online, including one from Imbibe magazine.
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