It’s hard to find a more perfect cocktail to bleed into autumn than the Gin Rickey. Not only does it contain gin—arguably the spirit most suited for shoulder-season day-drinking—but the classic recipe is so simple (gin, lime and soda) you won’t mind making a whole batch for your friends and family. “It’s a combination that’s been refreshing drinkers since the 19th century,” says Anthony Pullen, a brand ambassador for Bulldog gin.
Surprisingly, the original Rickey was actually based on rye or bourbon rather than gin and used lemon instead of lime. “The rise in popularity of gin was so overwhelming that these days when anyone orders a Rickey, it’s all but assumed they want it with gin,” says Pullen.
The Rickey is important now for the same reasons it has been important since the late 19th century: It’s easy to make and incredibly refreshing. “For bartenders, the simplicity of the classic recipe makes creating clever riffs really easy,” says Pullen.
It’s not uncommon for bars to have entire menus dedicated to Rickey riffs. We searched all over the country to find the five best examples of summer’s perfect drink.
This twist on a traditional Rickey by China Morbosa at West Hollywood’s Eveleigh subs mezcal for gin or whiskey, using lemon for citrus, a half ounce of manzanilla sherry for dryness and depth and a house-made mango coconut soda water in place of traditional club soda. Technically, that makes it just a Rickey and not a Gin Rickey, but gin can easily be substituted into this cocktail to keep the original style intact.
This modern take on the Gin Rickey by Nicholas Boden at Tavernonna at Hotel Phillips in Kansas City, Mo., is a fusion of new and old. “It has all the elements of the classic recipe, but the Builders gin used was selected because of its lavender-forward properties, and the use of citric acid instead of lime juice is an updated technique used by many bartenders,” says Boden. “The extremely herbal cocktail is then topped off with lavender-infused soda water. Everything comes together in a symphony of flavors when the drink is served in a rosemary-smoked Martini glass.
This is a good Rickey to imbibe as you head into the fall. Instead of citrus and botanical flavors, this cocktail by Katie Astrauskas at Chicago’s GreenRiver relies on a base of genever, the juniper-based ancestor to gin that’s popular in the Netherlands. “This fall take on the classic Gin Rickey, with a malty genever base, is the perfect tall drink for brisk weather,” says Astrauskas.
More of a chef's table Rickey than a backyard Rickey, the Alpine Hippie Juice is “hyperconcentrated, super tart and and dry,” says creator Jeremy Allen, of Los Angeles’ MiniBar. The Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur of the Alps does the work of juniper berries in gin. “It’s a new yet familiar flavor in a clean and simple drink,” says Allen.
At Phoenix’s Pig & Pickle, it’s all about day drinking. “When it’s hot out—and it’s always hot in Arizona—I want something light, refreshing and sessionable,” says Clayton MacGregor, who created the Junior Buffalo GDE. (GDE stands for greatest dog/drink ever.) “It’s an homage to my late favorite dog ever, Buffalo the Bulldog, and this drink lives up to his standard of greatness.” It’s elegant, refreshing and easy to love.
Think you know the booze?
Let’s start with some basics.