Cocktails Spirits

The History of the Gimlet

A classic cocktail concocted by sailors.

The Gimlet can be considered one of the most classic cocktails; it’s simple, elegant and timeless.

The history of the Gimlet is actually as simple as the cocktail itself. The drink was originally promoted and drunk by British officers back in the 19th Century. When sailors discovered that citrus juice would help fight off scurvy- a brutal, painful and sometimes deadly disease brought about by vitamin C deficiency- the Navy would bring gallons of lime juice along voyages so sailors would remain strong and healthy. However, if you’ve ever tried drinking straight lime juice, then you know just how unappealing it is, especially if you’re having it daily.

So the story goes that Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Desmond Gimlette  is the father of the modern Gimlet. Acting as a doctor to sailors, he administered gin with lime in order to mask the bitter taste. Allegedly, he introduced this to his shipmates to help them swallow down the lime juice as an anti-scurvy medication. The drink became known as ‘grog,’ and so great was their consumption of this ‘medicine’ that sailors soon became known as “Limeys”.

However, there is another credible story in that the drink was named after the hand tool, which was used to bore into barrels of spirits on Navy ships – also know as a gimlet.

Either way, which ever story you wish to believe, there’s one ingredient that has been critical to a classic Gimlet. Rose’s Lime Cordial has played a central role in the story of the Gimlet, as it was the fruit preserve of choice by sailors. The cordial was first produced by Scottish entrepreneur Lauchlan Rose in 1867 and was the world’s first fruit concentrate. Rose patented the process in a move that quickly paid off, as later that year a law was passed that all vessels should carry lime juice and serve it as a daily ration to their crews.

Modern bartenders will use their own simple syrups and fresh lime juice, but the cordial still works as a perfect classic ingredient.

Classic Gimlet


  • 2 oz Gin
  • 0.75 oz Rose’s Lime Cordial
  • 1 Lime

Method: Pour gin, and cordial into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously until very cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, or strain over a rocks glass filled with ice, depending on preference. Garnish with a lime wheel and enjoy.


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