Even if you’ve never had a Rickey, it’s likely you have all the ingredients for this classic drink at this very moment. Simply put, a Rickey is an unpretentious, effervescent mixture of citrus (traditionally lime), a base spirit and some sort of carbonation (typically soda water), served in a highball or Collins glass. This drink style skews tart and dry, so if you prefer sweeter drinks, you may wish to add a sweetener, thus making a Collins-style cocktail.
This genre of cocktail has been around since the 1880s. It’s named after “Colonel Joe” Rickey, whose peculiar order of lime with his whiskey highball one night led bartender George Williamson of Shoomaker’s Bar in Washington, D.C., to name the unorthodox drink after Rickey himself. Even though Colonel Joe fancied the whiskey-based version (rye whiskey being more popular than bourbon at the time), gin eventually became the spirit of choice in the Rickey as the spirit came into vogue in the early 19th century, and it was a bit more balanced than whiskey counterpart in the cocktail, especially without the addition of simple syrup.
If you enjoy highballs, not least for how easy they are to make at home, then the various members of the Rickey family might just be your new go-to drinks. The Rickey is guaranteed to quench your thirst and lift your spirits. These are a few to put at the top of your list.
If you prefer your cocktails with a side of history, you’ll want your first Rickey to be whiskey-based, as “Colonel Joe” Rickey’s was more than a century ago—specifically, with America’s favorite spirit, bourbon. The formula is unassuming yet refreshing. Take a chilled highball glass, add whiskey and a good craft soda water, and finish it off with a fresh squeeze of lime juice. The cocktail isn’t meant to knock your socks off, but it will absolutely quench your thirst, and you can make a second round in under a minute if you’re deft of hand.
Washington, D.C.’s Cotton & Reed showcases the rum distillery’s robustly flavored allspice dram in the unvarnished Rickey template. Carbonation is known to open up a spirit’s more nuanced characteristics, which in the case of allspice dram is like opening Pandora’s box of flavors. In this cocktail, the complex and slightly sweet allspice dram is complemented by fresh lime juice and soda water, producing a balanced drink that smells as good as it tastes.
Pale Horse Rickey
If you’re an avid cocktail enthusiast and looking for something beyond the standard, this twist on the classic by China Morbosa at West Hollywood’s Eveleigh is everything that you’re looking for. Earthy, smoky mezcal serves as the cocktail’s base, which is then paired with manzanilla sherry, lemon juice and a soda made with coconut water and mango. The unconventional flavor combo makes for an excellent example of this cocktail style’s potential.
Junior Buffalo GDE
Clayton MacGregor created the Junior Buffalo GDE (which stands for greatest dog/drink ever) in honor of his late dog, Buffalo the Bulldog. If you’re a dog lover, you’re likely sold on this drink based on that fact alone, but the drink itself is also worth a try on its own merits. It’s a riff on the classic Gin Rickey, calling for gin, grapefruit juice, orange cream tincture and orange blossom soda water. This drink is perfect for a savvy home bartender.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
More common than its whiskey-based counterpart in the modern day, the gin version of the Rickey is a cocktail that’s especially popular when the weather begins to warm up. The Gin Rickey first appeared in print in 1882 in Harry Johnson’s iconic “Bartenders’ Manual,” where the recipe originally called for an Old Tom gin or a Holland-style gin (aka genever). It eventually evolved into its current form, which typically employs a London dry gin or one with a relatively clean botanical profile. The drink is built in a highball glass over ice with fresh lime juice and soda water before being garnished with a lime wedge. It’s incredibly simple, dry and tart, and with a more unusual gin, it can actually be quite nuanced.