The History of the Gimlet

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The Gimlet has one of the more interesting stories concerning its creation, although it is now enjoyed for pleasure rather than ‘necessity’! Concocted by a doctor, rather than a mixologist, the drink was made as a way to administer medicine to British Navy Officers back in the 19th century.

All Aboard for the Gimlet


At a time when scurvy was rife on ships, this combination of gin and citrus juice was thought to cure the ailment. Scurvy is a vitamin C deficiency characterised by anaemia, fatigue, bruising and bleeding. When citrus juice was available, it was treated as a gift from the Gods, helping to bring those at the brink of exhaustion back to life in a relatively short time. The addition of gin was to lessen the sharp taste of the lime juice, and so the Gimlet was born, named after the doctor, Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Desmond Gimlette.

While the Gimlet was good for the officers, the sailors themselves only had access to rum, and so this was used in place of gin. This blend was known as Grog and was a very popular beverage aboard the boats. The Grog recipe was very similar to a Daquiri and may well have been the inspiration behind this other classic cocktail.

Although modern-day creations tend to make use of whatever lime juice the bartender has to hand, Rose’s Lime Cordial is the official Gimlet mixer, since it was the only available cordial for the sailors. Rose’s was the first fruit cordial ever produced in 1867. It was patented just before a law was passed that stated all water vessels should carry the concentrate as an anti-scurvy precaution, served as a daily ration. As you can imagine, the law did wonders for their business!

Modern Variations


The classic Gimlet is made up of two parts gin and one-part lime juice. It can also include the addition of soda if you so wish. Serve with or without ice, depending on your preference.

The Vodka Gimlet is so named since it replaces gin with vodka – a great alternative if that is the spirit you have available. This cocktail is very similar to a Mojito, just without the sugar syrup. If you think a traditional Mojito is too sweet, this may well be the drink for you!

The Carnaby Gimlet was created in the Carnaby Club in Italy and features the traditional recipe with the addition of sweet lime syrup and cold still water.

So, next time you enjoy a Gimlet, remember that this drink was once considered a miracle medicine and was prescribed to be consumed every day! Then you won’t feel so bad about going back for a second, or even a third!

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