I recently started a website called Professor Cocktail that covers another passion of mine: fine spirits and cocktails. I've been writing a series of posts over there called "Worlds Collide" that deals with the intersection of my two major pursuits, namely crime fiction and spirits. I'm going to start cross-posting those essays here.
Raymond Chandler, one of the great American writers of all-time and one of the two finest practitioners of the classic hardboiled detective novel, is best known for his immortal creation, Philip Marlowe. The Los Angeles private eye appeared in several novels and solved many cases. But perhaps his greatest achievement lay in the spirituous realm, for Marlowe (and Chandler) gets credit for helping to popularize a classic cocktail: the Gimlet.
The Gimlet is reputed to have been invented by Sir Thomas D. Gimlette, a surgeon who served in the Royal Navy around the turn of the 20th century. He supposedly created a drink made from gin mixed with lime-juice cordial as a way of inducing sailors to consume Vitamin C, and the cocktail eventually took his name. (This story is quite possibly not true, but it's a good story.)
Despite its antiscorbutic properties, the Gimlet failed to catch on in the United States, where the Martini and the Manhattan still held sway. That began to change, allegedly, when Raymond Chandler, one of the most popular authors of his time, introduced his readers to the Gimlet in the pages of The Long Goodbye (1953).
Early in the novel, Philip Marlowe meets up with Terry Lennox, an alcoholic British ex-pat, in a bar called Victor's. The pair get to talking and begin to bond over several rounds of cocktails. Marlowe recalled:
We sat in the corner bar at Victor’s and drank gimlets. “They don’t know how to make them here,” [Lennox] said. “What they call a gimlet is just some lime or lemon juice and gin with a dash of sugar and bitters. A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow.”
There's no doubt that the Gimlet is a fine cocktail -- a true classic that any bartender worth his salt can make, and many drinkers will enjoy. And Lennox is right that a Gimlet must be made with Rose's Lime Juice. If it's made with anything else, it just isn't a Gimlet.
But those proportions! That's enough Rose's to make a fish pucker, and drown the gin like a medievil witch. So here's a recipe for a Gimlet that's a little more palatable. It still has more Rose's than most recipes you'll find, but we're mixing it in honor of Marlowe.
2 oz. Gin (Plymouth Gin is a good choice)
1 oz. Rose's Lime Juice
Shake (or stir if you'd rather) with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Nothing could be simpler. The bartender at Victor's eventually buys a bottle of Rose's so that he can make Marlowe a Gimlet. But by that point Lennox is gone and the detective has lost his taste for them.
That won't stop us, however, for mixing up a cocktail and raising a glass in honor of one of the finest writers who ever lived.
Cheers, Mr. Chandler!