Monday, December 22, 2008

The Gin Rickey

It's been a while since I've blogged, and I apologize for that. My only hope is that die hard readers are still checking back and RSS might reel in some old-timers. I've traveled, done a bit of writing, completed a few projects, and most importantly, sipped on some of the finest spirits around; which brings me to my current journey, cocktails. I've never considered myself a "mixed drink" person, short Margaritas and White Russians, but what kind of well rounded individual would I be never knowing the simple yet complex flavors of the Gibson or the Orange Blossom. I'm still can't abide cloyingly sweet drinks that require a laundry list of ingredients to make, and I would much rather have a simple, well made drink that contains only the freshest ingredients.

Which brings us to the Gin Rickey. What better way to start my voyage into the overwhelming world of cocktails than with this classic. It's sharp, refreshing, clean, and potent. Enjoyed by the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, this drink was a classic during the 20's and 30's. I make mine with Bombay Sapphire Gin due to its complexity imparted by no fewer than ten exotic herbs and spices. I know many people are turned off by the juniper flavor of gin, but I've managed to convert several gin-haters these past few weeks. A good, inexpensive, starter gin with more citrus flavor than juniper is New Amsterdam Gin by E&J Gallo. It works great in a Gin Rickey, but won't be quite as complex as Bombay.

Before I go into the recipe, a brief word about cocktails. Really great cocktails are made from the best ingredients. This doesn't mean that you need to put $60 tequila in a margarita, that would probably be a waste. Tequila of that caliber is meant to be sipped straight up or with a splash of water; the lime juice would completely overpower the subtle flavors of the tequila. What you should be using is silver tequila that says somewhere on the bottle "100% de agave." That indicates the tequila was made from pure agave juice, otherwise it could contain 49% sugar. Learn the trademarks of a quality spirit, and purchase one appropriate for the drink you are making.

And fruit. A margarita contains lime juice, orange liquor, and tequila. Nothing else. And if you're reaching for a little plastic bottle that looks like a lime or, even worse, a neon green bottle of mixer, just stop. Go out and seek fresh lemons and limes. Too expensive you say? Try buying limes at La Esquinita or GFS. Both have pretty decent deals, and will keep you off the wagon for some time. La Esquinita often has very fresh limes no more expensive than 6/$1.00. Bottom line, nothing beats freshly squeezed orange, grapefruit, lemon, and lime juice. Grab some quality olives for your martini. People will rave about your cocktails, and you'll be enjoying drinks of higher quality than can be purchased in Peoria. I can't think of any bar in Peoria that uses freshly squeezed juices in their cocktails, which is a damn shame considering the price you pay.

The Gin Rickey:
2 oz. Gin
3/4 oz. Lime Juice
Club Soda
Lime Wheel

Pour the gin and lime juice into a chilled high ball glass filled with ice cubes. Stir with a bar spoon to dilute slightly. Top with club soda and stir gently. Garnish with the lime wheel. Serve with two straws.

A few notes: I can't stand lime wheels. They look nice, but you really can't squeeze them without making a mess, and you don't get much juice from them. I prefer a lime wedge or a twist. I use a twist in mine because the drink has the perfect amount of lime juice already. I also prefer my Gin Rickey in a rocks glass rather than a high ball. Just personal preference, I guess.