The Great Gimlet Controversy

Okay, in the spirit of enlivening this blog, I’m going to post a video and ask for some commentary. I’ll start with this short, entertaining video showing how to make a Gimlet:

Here’s the question: can you make a Gimlet with gin, lime juice, and simple syrup, or does the drink require Rose’s lime cordial?


23 thoughts on “The Great Gimlet Controversy

  1. I see how tradition and history may dictate that one uses Rose’s. However, lime juice and simple syrup makes a better enough drink that we either need to (A) redefine the term “Gimlet” permanently or (B) make gin sours (with lime juice) instead.


  2. Bless the makers of this video.

    The cocktail orthodoxy is ridiculous — I’ll bet my liver that gin was mixed with fresh lime and sugar long before Rose’s lime juice existed.

    On the other hand, Rose’s lime juice tastes absolutely *vile* and a Gimlet made with it also tastes vile.

    I do think there needs to be some sort of distinction if it’s not on your menu though — say, a universal acceptance that a call for a ‘fresh Gimlet’ for example, would result in being served a quality drink with real ingredients rather than that horrible mess of flavoring, chemicals and HFCS called Rose’s.


  3. Personally, I don’t care what anyone says about authenticity in this case. Rose’s lime cordial is disgusting, and I make my gimlets with simple and lime.


  4. Gin, lime juice, and simple are good. Rose’s is bad. Of course there is always the third option of making your own lime cordial, but it seems people can’t agree on how that should be made either.


  5. Fresh lime + Simple syrup! If you think you need a lime cordial, try Tait Farm Lime Shrub. In the end, though, it’s just simpler (and, honestly, tastier) to use the simple + lime.


  6. I think this is pretty simple:

    Rose’s lime juice and the fresh squeezed stuff taste significantly differently from each other, right? So why would you call two cocktails made with each the same, especially if a “Gimlet” specifically calls for Rose’s?

    This has nothing to do with what you think tastes better. Make your gin sour with fresh lime juice if you like, but don’t call it a gimlet.

    I posted about it here:


  7. I agree with the other posts–Rose’s is the worst, especially when untalented bartenders put WAY too much of it in their attempt to make a gimlet. Fresh lime and sugar–simple and the way to go.


  8. Great post, John.

    Upon further contemplation, I would liken the Gimlet controversy to this:

    If you swapped genever for gin, could you still call it a Martini? If you swapped orange bitters for Peychaud’s, could you still call it a Sazerac? The answers are “no”, but you COULD simply call them Martini and Sazerac variations.

    Making a gin sour with lime juice and sugar is a Gimlet variation, not a Gimlet. This is only an issue of nomenclature… I’m not actually trying to defend Rose’s… I’m only trying to defend cocktail tradition and nomenclature.

    We can’t track cocktail history if we change old recipes without changing their names. Doing otherwise is attempting to rewrite history. If you simply despise Rose’s, I can understand the desire to write it out of history, but that doesn’t make it right.


  9. The Gimlet was an Admirals drink because only the top officers on the ships had gin. Rum, because it was cheaper, was rationed to the rest of the crew. We do know lime juice was used to prevent scurvy, however without refrigeration, limes wouldn’t last more than a several days on a ship. Enter preserved lime juice, or cordial.
    Knowing the origins and that cordial was a major component in the Gimlet I don’t think we can call it a Gimlet without it. The addition of fresh lime along with the cordial might make it a variation. A gin sour is just that and was most likely being made in the time period as a separate cocktail.
    Great conversation DJ, too bad we’re not discussing this over a few Gimlets right now.


  10. I think this conversation is predicated on a false dichotomy. A drink made with gin, fresh lime juice and sugar is a Gin Sour, and there’s nothing wrong with it. A drink made with gin and lime cordial is a Gimlet, and those are tasty too. But, while Rose’s may be the predominant lime cordial on the market, it’s not the only lime cordial in existence. I make my own lime cordial, and I think it’s pretty nice. But it’s substantially different from fresh lime juice and sugar. (Also, while we’re at it, imported Rose’s from Britain is substantially different from the local Rose’s I get here in Canada, and far superior.)


  11. Agree that Rose’s has no place in a modern bar. If lime cordial was born out of the necessity of preservation, then using the its basic ingredients separately does not constitute a different drink, IMHO.


  12. I know Raymond Chandler believed that a gimlet was half gin and half Rose’s Lime juice and nothing else, but I have to believe if Chandler saw what Rose’s has become he’d modify that belief in a Los Angeles minute (it’s like a New York minute, but slower, and somehow with more teeth). I’ve actually taken to making my own lime cordial using the Thinking of Drinking recipe as a base ( and it’s turned out to be nothing short of spectacular.

    As an aside, I wound up starting a cocktail seminar series with my coworkers (ok, we’ve had one session so far, but we’re planning a second! it’s a series in progress…) which focused on gin, and I made, among other things, a gimlet with my homemade cordial. I felt the original mixer looked too much like a urine sample, so I added a bit of green food dye. Entirely too much as it turned out, and thus I referred to it as a leprechaun’s urine sample. On the plus side, though, polling reveals I’ve changed how the plurality of coworkers though of gin. So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.


  13. I find that a really fantastic Gimlet (I won’t get into the debate about the name) can be made using fresh lime juice and using lime cordial (even the widely-detested Rose’s) as the sweetener. If you’re using just enough cordial to balance the acid of the lime juice, it is delicious.

    I find that, at bars at which I’ve worked, the best drink is made with gin, lime juice, and lime cordial (house-made). Call it what you like; I think it’s the best drink out of those discussed here.


  14. When Trader Vic came up with his Mai Tai it featured J. Wray & Nephew 17 year old rum. That rum is long gone, but it is still a Mai Tai with a different aged rum. Ingredients change. The recipe, at its core, is still the same based on the desired flavor.

    Kill the Roses (yuk) and add a better / different lime and sugar substitute. It is still a Gimlet. And very, very good, btw, if you make it with fresh ingredients.


  15. A couple things worth noting.

    1. Rose’s lime cordial uses key limes, which have their own distinct flavor. If you’re making a Gimlet at home, maybe spending the time juicing those tiny key limes will be worth it, but I imagine that it might be a bit hard to convince a bartender at a busy bar tht it’s a good use of their time.

    2. If Rose’s were not at bars, they would not magically use fresh citrus.. They would use cheap sours mix, which is generally not as concentrated as Rose’s and would make a genuinely awful Gimlet. Rose’s is a lesser of two evils, recognizing that fresh citrus isn’t going to be at all bars.


  16. Quite simply, use fresh lime if available. If they could have preserved fresh citrus on ships at the time, I’m sure they would have. I’m all for sweetening/balancing it with good quality/house made lime cordial/sherbet/shrub.


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