There’s a million elderflower liqueur recipes out there, all from about around 10 years ago, but the Gimlet isn’t one of them. The French Gimlet is related to the Gimlet in name, kinda like an Apple Martini is related to a Martini. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means it’s different enough to raise an eyebrow at calling it Gimlet, or Martini, as the case may be.
This could have been called some kind of Martini, more name recognition there, but it’s a Gimlet by virtue of the lime but lime cordial is not our lime of choice here. A proper Gimlet is made with lime cordial, which is sweetened lime juice, or Rose’s if that’s how you like it. A French Gimlet, on the other hand, uses fresh lime juice, along with elderflower liqueur and gin, and there’s not much to it. It’s a light, very delicate, almost thin and dreamy cocktail, so let’s see if it’s a great place to start with both mixing and elderflower.
There’s not much to say about the French Gimlet. It’s history? Doesn’t seem to matter, it’s not a well traveled cocktail, and the literature on the matter is sparse. It’s a sure bet, though, that it comes from a time when elderflower liqueur, specifically St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, was the bartenders favorite friend, and everyone was still confused by the final episode of Lost. So why isn’t it more popular now? Pull up a chair.
St. Germain is a neo-liqueur. Yes, it’s delicious in almost anything, and was once called “bartender’s ketchup,” because it just makes many things better, like ketchup on fries, or, if you’re so inclined, catsup on a hot dog. Then, like furbies, cabbage patch kids, and beanie babies, it got too much, and there were too many choices, and, really, another St. Germain cocktail on the menu? Again? And that’s really the tale of St. Germain, it’s become a specialists choice, we’ve all had our fun, and now it belongs to those who walk on the wild side with their red hots. St. Germain has found parity in the liquor cabinet and on cocktail menus, but what’s left behind is a blizzard of really, really good recipes, all related by generous amounts of St. Germain, and all of which are from that specific time because St. Germain didn’t exist before 2007. That’s what makes it neo-liqueur. It was gone from shelves, and only returned when an old recipe was dug up and followed, but can you say, after so many years, that it’s what the OG would have been? No, but, that doesn’t mean it’s not a remarkable spirit.
Standing out in a crowd when you’re quiet and gentle is difficult to do, and the French Gimlet just didn’t do it. It’s still around, you can still order it, but it’s just one of an overwhelming number of available drinks that really only had that one thing in common. Is it a good place to start with St. Germain? Yes and no. It’s too subtle to be a proper introduction to elderflower, but it’s easy enough to make, and that’s a good place to start working with St. Germain. Don’t sweat it, though. St. Germain is hard to ruin, hard to overpour, and very forgiving in a cocktail, unlike others such as Chartreuse, or maraschino, or anything that punishes you if you don’t get it exactly right. It’s also a little odd, sandwiched between gin and lime. The lime makes it tart, but doesn’t bring much else, there’s only half an ounce in the glass. Rely on the gin.
St. Germain is the perfect supporting act. Just like ketchup, it makes everything better, which is why it got so popular, but it’s not playing lead in a blockbuster. It needs an ensemble cast, so pick a gin with Tanqueray levels of sharply focused authority, or a unique gin, something special, and make the French Gimlet your own riff. For us, we like Gomper’s Gin. Gomper’s is dry, but with a flavor profile that you won’t find elsewhere. Yeah, it’s gin, it’s got juniper, local, Oregon juniper, but it also has all the other Oregon stuff. Pears, lavender, and lots of local things are in it, and we’re proud of that. Oregon juniper is underused except in Oregon, so keep it our little secret. Then add the local juniper gin to some St. Germain with lime juice, and don’t expect to be blown away. A French Gimlet isn’t a dog chasing a stick on the beach, it’s a bashful cat you get to pet only when sleeping, a flower whose delicate scent is always just out of reach, or an etude by Debussy. Approach it that way, and you’ll be rewarded for sure.
2 oz Gomper’s Gin
1 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/2 oz Lime
Shake and serve up. No garnish.
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