The Garden Gimlet
As you start to enjoy the milder temperatures of September nights, don’t forget that there are plenty of warm days left on the calendar before you’ll enjoy a glass of whiskey or a hot toddy fireside.
I’ve found myself enjoying the outdoors as the stifling heat has given way to those golden afternoons we only dream of in the dog days of… three weeks ago? It’s that tweener season where you might be scratching your head on the porch, wondering ‘I should make a cocktail, but what should it be?’ Maybe you’ve got some herbs in the garden, flourishing in the fresh, mild evenings. Since you’ve been through a LOT these past few months, you’re undoubtedly hiding some gin in the liquor cabinet. Enter the ultimate blank canvas for making delicious drinks with a few fresh ingredients – the Gimlet – invented to ward off scurvy and ensure that British sailors would actually drink lime juice.
The gimlet is fascinating historically as it’s actually pretty difficult to recreate the original, seaborne sipper. Sailors were drinking a concoction of gin and preserved lime juice, essentially an early, homemade version of what would become Rose’s lime cordial, the neon green corn syrup-laden mid century mishap that’s probably gathering dust in your parent’s or grandparent’s liquor cabinet. In those original nautical gimlets, sugar was added to lime juice to preserve the flavor, but one can only guess what other tasting notes were present in those drinks. A little salinity from the ocean air, drifting over the hull as waves crashed all around? Sounds lovely. Some funky, wild yeasts making their way into the preserved lime juice? Not so lovely. Thankfully you only need a few ingredients to make a drink so refreshing and inviting you’ll be tweaking it for all seasons. I like using some basil and a little squeeze of grapefruit juice to my late summer gimlet, as the basil in the garden this time of year is flowering, and a few of those tiny buds can add so much flavor when shaken into your cocktail. Is it already getting cold where you live? Try a fall gimlet using a barrel-aged gin like Ransom, and a light dash of Angostura bitters to introduce some fall spice. As I write this from Nashville, it’s hot out and the dogs just want to nap near the air-conditioning vents. By sunset it will be much cooler, and I’ll be thinking about making another gimlet.
2 oz. Bristow Gin (or any herbaceous, botanically-focused gin)
.75 oz. Fresh lime juice (usually the amount of juice in one lime)
.75 oz. Simple syrup
.25 oz. Fresh grapefruit juice
5 Small basil leaves (or flowers if you’ve got em!), one of which will be saved for garnish*
Add all ingredients into a shaker, tearing 3-4 basil leaves just before adding them in, saving one basil leaf for garnish. Add ice to your shaker and shake until very cold. Double strain your drink into a coupe (or glass) and garnish with one basil leaf and any other flowering herb or aromatic herb from your garden, as long as you know it’s edible.
Remember, making and drinking cocktails should be a pleasurable experience. If you don’t have the brands listed don’t be detoured, try it this time with what you have on hand.
*If you don’t have any basil, parsley would be a great substitute here. You can tailor whichever herb or vegetables you have around and shake them up in a gimlet. Cucumber-dill gimlet? Lavender-honey syrup gimlet? Rosemary and a little shot of lemon juice? The possibilities are multitudinous.
About Mike Wolf
Writer and cocktail innovator Mike Wolf has made a name for himself crafting thoughtful and equally delicious libations inspired by shifting seasons and southern terroir. From building the bar program at Husk alongside venerable chef Sean Brock, to opening the tiki bar, Chopper, to writing Garden to Glass: Grow Your Drinks from the Ground Up and now a second book, Lost Spring: How We Cocktailed Through Crisis, Wolf has maintained a down-to-earth sensibility rooted in his homegrown garden in Nashville, blooming with upwards of 30 different herbs and vegetables dedicated to very best cocktails.