After last week’s amazing Clover Cub, we’ve decided to stick with gin as our theme this month. Unlike last week, we’re going to stray away from the classic formula and try something a little different. We’ve featured the Gin Rickey – Washington DC’s official cocktail, for obviously good reasons – more than once in our Friday Happy Hour column. So instead of revisiting a classic again, we’re going to update it a bit. The result is somewhere between a Rickey, a shrub, and a Pimm’s Cup, but it’s all awesome. – Andrew
Illustration by Nathalie Ouederni
Watermelon Mint Gin Rickey
1 1/2 oz Dry Gin
1 oz Watermelon & Mint Shrub
1/2 oz Pimm’s No. 1
1/4 oz Ginger Liqueur
1/2 a Lime
Muddle the lime in the bottom of a highball glass, then fill the glass with ice. Add the gin, shrub, Pimm’s, and liqueur. Top with the tonic water and give the drink a stir. Enjoy!
This is a fun, peppy, complex play on the Rickey. There’s a lot going on in this glass, in contrast to the original Rickey’s simplicity, and I think a more delicate gin works best here to bind all of the flavors together. Try Plymouth, easily one of our favorite English Dry Gins, or Hendrick’s, which adds cucumber and rose to its list of botanicals, or Aviation, which is made with a bit less juniper to let all its other complex botanicals shine. One of my newest favorites is Heritage Soft Gin, which is made by skipping a second round of distillation that leaves the gin without a sharp juniper edge. (These last two, in contrast to the English Dry style of gin, fall under the category of New American Gins, which focus less on juniper and more on all those other herbs and spices that lend their flavor to gin.)
That watermelon and mint shrub comes from 1821 Bitters, whom I mentioned back when we featured our Amaretto Sour. It’s very tart, made with a base of apple cider vinegar, but also tastes richly of sweet watermelon (the mint gets a bit lost, more of an accent, but that’s ok for my purposes). It adds a nice zing and a hint of summery fruit to the glass. Same goes for the Pimm’s, which I normally associate closely with summer drinking. And the ginger liqueur – something like Domaine de Canton or Barrow’s – adds just a bit of sharp ginger spiciness. Like I said, there’s a lot going on in this drink, and then you pour bitter tonic on top. (Make sure you give a stir after that, or your first taste will be all tonic…)
And on that tonic: after spending all that time putting together all these great ingredients, you don’t want to dump just any generic tonic in your glass. Most tonic for sale these days is made without any quinine, the essential ingredient that gives tonic its bitterness (tonic started its life as a way of getting British sailors and soldiers assigned to tropical locales to take their quinine, a natural anti-malarial drug) and sweetened with corn syrup. Fortunately, there’s a growing availability of tonics made with quality ingredients. It’s worth putting in a little leg work as the weather gets nicer and your highballs start demanding to be filled with Rickeys and Gin & Tonics.
(Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, where we’ve been posting our experiments before they make their way onto this column!)
Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper