Mad Men’s Betty Draper downed gimlets to hide her troubles. Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe sipped gimlets as he complained about their slipping quality. When I went to name this latest Cocktail Hour cocktail a gimlet, I found out about the drink’s controversial past. The scurvy prevention. The corn syrup addition. The rise and fall of the Rose’s Lime Juice gimlet. My gimlet has homemade cucumber juice in the ingredients. I decided it was a non-gimlet. I labeled my latest Stoli creation a cooler.
My cooler’s not so far from the modern-day gimlet, though, which contains a lot of lime juice and a little sugar or simple syrup, and vodka or gin. To that, I simply added more greenness in the form of farmers’ market kirby cucumbers, blended into juice.
But the original gimlet, invented by Sir. Thomas D. Gimlette, a surgeon in the British navy, who prescribed the cocktail to help officers get their vitamins, contained lime cordial. Lime cordial, a syrupy preparation, stayed fresh at sea, and the ration kept sailors chipper and scurvy-free. Later, when sweetened lime juice appeared bottled on shelves everywhere, bartenders adopted a new gimlet recipe: half booze, half Rose’s Lime Juice. (That’s where the corn syrup came in.) The Rose-laced gimlet was on cocktail menus everywhere in the 1930s, becoming as common as the Manhattan or the Martini and often inebriating Mr. Marlowe in The Long Goodbye–he craved the super sweet version but had to suffer fresh lime juice in one scene, when the bartender screwed up.
So there’s the controversy: does a gimlet have to contain homemade lime cordial à la Sir. Gimlette, can it be good with fresh lime juice and sugar, or is a heavy pour of Rose’s Lime Juice the only solution?
Wanting to respect history, I discarded the name gimlet and the modern fresh lime juice variation, dismissed as too simple by all these characters. But I also nixed the pre-sweetened lime juice and exchanged it for homemade cucumber juice, green and a little weird looking, and perhaps as health-inducing in the end as Sir. Gimlette’s original. I muddled in some mint and spiked it all with the original puckery lime. Like the sapphire color, the taste is a little mysterious. This is an afternoon cocktail that celebrates summer even as the season comes to an end.
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Savor Stoli Responsibly. STOLICHNAYA® Premium Vodka. 40% Alc/Vol. Distilled from grain. William Grant & Sons, Inc. New York, NY. © 2013 Spirits International, B.V.
Minted Cucumber Cooler
4 medium cucumbers, ends trimmed
1/2 cup Stoli Vodka
1 tablespoon sugar
1 large sprig mint leaves, picked off the stem
Cut a few slices from one cucumber for garnish and reserve in a bowl covered with a damp paper towel. Then peel and cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise. Scoop out some of the seeds and discard (they can make the juice bitter). Chop the cukes coarsely and place them in the food processor. Blend until pureed, adding up to 1/4 cup water as needed to make a pulpy liquid. Strain in a mesh colander set over a bowl or large measuring cup. You should have 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups juice.
Juice one of the limes. You should have about 1 1/2 tablespoons. Cut the second lime into wedges and set aside.
Muddle the sugar with the mint until the mint is very fragrant. (I don’t have an actual muddler and use the back of a spoon.) Add 1 1/4 cups cucumber juice, the vodka, and the 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Strain the mixture into rocks glasses filled with ice. Garnish each drink with two lime wedges and 2 cucumber slices.