A Gin Rickey Cocktail is a classic drink made with gin, carbonated water, and tart lime juice originating in Washington, DC. This classic cocktail is a refreshingly crisp beverage that’s light on the palate but contains just enough oomph to make it interesting. This recipe will be your go-to, especially if you’re a gin lover like me.
If you’re a bartender reading this, I’m probably standing in front of you, asking you to make me this drink. Thank you so much for your attention and participation.
This recipe is intended for those of legal drinking age.
Where Did the Gin Rickey Originate?
Shoomaker’s Bar, a Washington DC bar, claims to be the birthplace of the gin rickey, and I have to agree that the best one I’ve ever had was in D.C. The gin rickey began as a bourbon rickey, or a Joe Rickey, in honor of its creator, Colonel Joe Rickey. Who wasn’t even a real colonel but a soldier. Ol’ Joe was a democratic lobbyist who frequented his fair share of bars. In the 1800s, he asked bartender George Williamson to make him a drink with a shot of bourbon mixed with fresh lime juice and soda water, and the “Joe Rickey” was born. With time, the gin replaced bourbon, and the gin rickey was born. Since COL Joe was a confederate soldier, I’m glad to be revamping his recipe.
Seven Reasons in bartender Daniel makes the best gin rickey I’ve tasted outside my home. Stop by and taste his if you’re ever in the area.
What Do I Need to Make a Gin Rickey?
The ingredients in gin rickey are gin, fresh lime juice, club soda, and a small amount of concentrated simple syrup if you prefer a sweeter cocktail.
You also need a cocktail shaker and highball (or Collins) glasses.
What Is Concentrated Simple Syrup?
Prepare a concentrated simple syrup to make your gin rickey a smidge sweeter. Using a very dry gin makes a refreshing drink, but it can also taste juniper-heavy. Concentrated simple syrup is a sweeter version of simple syrup that uses two-thirds sugar to one-third water instead of a one-to-one mixture. I like to add a little of this concentrated simple syrup to sweeten my gin rickey slightly without watering it down.
Add the cane sugar and cold water to a 3-quart pot. Start heating the mixture over medium heat while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn the stove off once the mixture comes to a boil and all of the sugar dissolves.
How Long Can I Store the Simple Syrup?
Pour the concentrated simple syrup into a mason jar, small pitcher, or similar container and allow it to cool completely.
You can store this simple syrup in the fridge for seven to ten days.
Can I Substitute the Club Soda With Something Else?
Daniel, the bartender from Seven Reasons, taught me a new technique that requires the soda water to go into the highball glass first. He gave me permission to share it with you. Divide the club soda equally between two highball glasses.
Gin Rickeys are made with soda water, though you can substitute it with sparkling mineral water, seltzer water, or tonic water as a last resort. Tonic water’s bitter flavor won’t mesh well with the lime juice. It also turns this into a completely different cocktail.
Ensure the club soda is chilled, so you don’t melt the ice when making your cocktail.
Can I Make This Cocktail with Bottled Lime Juice?
Add two cups of ice to a cocktail shaker. This isn’t a cocktail in which you want to use big ice cubes. Your basic freezer ice is just fine here. You need a lot of ice because we’re using this to serve the drink since we’re not straining this cocktail.
Next, add the juice of one large lime to the ice in the shaker. A gin rickey requires fresh lime juice since that’s the most prominent flavor besides the gin. You don’t want bottled lime juice in your cocktail because it tastes artificial. Roll the lime between the palm of your hand and the cutting board before cutting it to extract the most juice.
You can replace the lime juice with fresh lemon juice if that’s all you have.
What’s the Best Type of Gin to Use in a Gin Rickey?
The best gin to use in a gin rickey is a contemporary dry gin, which isn’t as juniper-heavy as London dry gin is.
Contemporary dry gin differs from a London dry gin in that the former has a less juniper-forward flavor, while the latter tastes like you’re licking a Christmas tree. London dry gins have the prominent flavor of juniper berries and are very dry. With a London dry gin, nothing, like botanicals or other flavorings, can be added later to the spirit. Contemporary (or New World) dry gins contain juniper but have botanicals and herbs added to the distilling process. Usually, this addition occurs during a second distillation.
Simply put, if you like the flavor of juniper, you want to purchase a London dry gin. I prefer a less piney flavor in my gin rickey, so I use Hendrick’s gin. Hendrick’s has cucumber and rose notes in addition to juniper and eleven other botanicals. Though you can’t taste any of these ingredients individually, combined, they make an amazing, slightly floral gin for cocktails and for drinking neat. Bombay Sapphire, Aviation Gin, or Plymouth Gin each are a solid choice to replace the Hendrick’s.
Add the gin to the shaker with the lime juice.
Can I Make It With Bourbon Instead?
Since the original rickey is a bourbon drink, you can totally make yours with your favorite bourbon.
Do I Have to Sweeten Mine?
I prefer a slightly sweeter drink, but not by much, so I add a little with the concentrated simple syrup. The original gin Rickey recipe doesn’t call for simple syrup, so you can omit it.
Add a half-ounce to one ounce of the concentrated simple syrup to the shaker.
Cap and vigorously shake the cocktail shaker until it frosts over and your hands get really cold. This is the sign that your gin mixture is properly chilled.
What is a “Dirty Pour”?
The technique Daniel taught me is the “dirty pour.” It’s so simplistic that it’s crazy. Yet, I’ve never thought of doing it. Most gin Rickey recipes call for you to pour the gin mixture into a glass and float the club soda over it. The problem with that technique is that you don’t get a proper mix because you must contend with the ice when you stir it. That, coupled with the carbonated water, leads to a ho-hum blending of the cocktail.
A dirty pour means you pour the contents of the cocktail shaker- alcohol, ice, and all into the glass, mixing the drink by gravity. This term is not to be confused with “dirty,” which means changing the drink’s color or taste by mixing in other ingredients. Martinis are often served “dirty.”
Divide the contents of the shaker evenly between the two highball glasses.
How Do I Garnish a Gin Rickey?
Garnish a gin Rickey with a fresh lime wheel, lime wedge, a twist of lime peel, dried lime slices, or leave it bare.
Enjoy your Gin Rickey responsibly, please and thank you.
What’s the Difference Between a Gin Rickey and a Tom Collins?
Some bartenders or gin purists may be ready to fight me for calling this a gin Rickey, but it’s not that serious.
The difference between a gin Rickey and a Tom Collins is how it’s poured and whether or not sweetener is added to the cocktail. You strain a Tom Collins cocktails into a glass and sweeten it with simple syrup. Gin Rickeys are poured straight into the glass and unsweetened. So, you see my dilemma. My recipe doesn’t have to be sweetened. That’s a personal preference. ERGO, this recipe is closer to being a gin Rickey than a Tom Collins.
What’s the Difference Between a Gin Rickey and a Gin and Tonic?
The difference between a gin Rickey and a gin and tonic is the carbonated water that the latter uses. Gin and tonics contain cucumber instead of lime. Hence the reason you want to avoid the tonic water in this recipe. Adding it makes this a very bitter, very incorrect gin and tonic.
Can I Make This a Gin Rickey Mocktail?
You can turn a classic gin Rickey cocktail into a gin Rickey mocktail by replacing the gin with an alcohol-free gin alternative. You can also turn this into a fun kid’s drink called a lime Rickey by adding another ounce of lime juice and concentrated simple syrup.
Now that this recipe is on the internet, I want to always have a lovely Gin Rickey at my beck and call. With its simple ingredients, my favorite drink will soon become yours. And if you fall in love with this recipe, be sure to check out my Gin Rickey Sorbet recipe.
Gin Rickey Cocktailat Sense & Edibility
- 24-ounce or larger cocktail shaker
- highball (or Collins) glasses
For the Concentrated Simple Syrup (Can Be Made Up to a Week Ahead)- Optional
- cane sugar 1/2 cup or 100 grams
- cold water 1/3 cup or 80 milliliters
To Make the Gin Rickey
- 1 1/2 cups (355 milliliters) soda water divided
- 2 cups (435 grams) ice
- 3 ounces (90 milliliters) gin
- 2 medium limes juiced (1 1/2 ounces or 45 milliliters)
- 1-1 1/2 ounces (30-45 milliliters) concentrated simple syrup more or less, to taste
Make the Concentrated Simple Syrup (May Be Done A Week Ahead)- Optional
- Add the cane sugar and cold water to a 3-quart pot. Heat the mixture over medium heat while stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Once the mixture comes to a boil and all of the sugar dissolves, turn off the stove and remove the pot from the burner. Pour the concentrated simple syrup into a mason jar, small pitcher, or similar container and allow it to cool completely.
- To rapidly cool the simple syrup: place the container it's in in an ice-bath for 10 minutes. Stir the simple syrup every 2 minutes to cool it evenly.
Mix the Gin Rickey
- Divide the club soda equally between two highball glasses.
- Add two cups of ice to a cocktail shaker. Next, add the juice of one large lime to the ice in the shaker.
- Add the gin to the shaker with the lime juice. Add a half-ounce to one ounce of the concentrated simple syrup to the shaker.
- Cap and vigorously shake the cocktail shaker until it frosts over and your hands get really cold. Dirty pour* the contents of the shaker evenly between the two highball glasses.
- Garnish each Gin Rickey with a fresh lime wheel, lime wedge, a twist of lime peel, dried lime slices, or leave it bare. Enjoy responsibly!
- To make this a Gin Rickey mocktail: replace the gin with an alcohol-free gin alternative.
- To turn this into a fun kid's drink called a lime Rickey: omit the gin and add another ounce of lime juice and concentrated simple syrup to the cocktail shaker.
Swaps and Substitutions:
- Substitute the soda water with sparkling mineral water, seltzer water, or tonic water as a last resort.
- You can replace the lime juice with fresh lemon juice in this recipe.
- I recommend using Hendrick's, Bombay Sapphire, Aviation, or Plymouth Gin in this recipe.
- Since the original rickey is a bourbon drink, you can totally make yours with your favorite bourbon.
- The original gin Rickey recipe doesn't call for simple syrup, so you can omit it.
Tips and Techniques:
- Ensure the club soda is completely chilled, so you don't melt the ice when making your cocktail.
- Roll the lime between the palm of your hand and the cutting board before cutting it to extract the most juice.
- You don't want to use bottled lime juice in your cocktail because it tastes artificial and will decrease the quality of your drink.
- Using a London dry gin will make this a juniper-forward cocktail. I recommend using a contemporary dry gin if you're not a fan of that flavor.
- A dirty pour means you pour the contents of the cocktail shaker- alcohol, ice, and all into the glass, mixing the drink by gravity.
- You can make the concentrated simple syrup 7-10 days ahead and store it in a jar in the fridge.
I had no idea this cocktail originated in Washington DC! It’s always fun to learn the history about different drinks. I love a good simple vodka soda so this one is right up my alley too!