The Gin Rickey, a wonderful, refreshing Summer drink that works all year round, is one of a family of cocktails simply called Rickey. Think of it as one of the original wildcards, made up of soda, lime juice, and spirit of your choice. While it’s known as a gin cocktail, it also works with bourbon, tequila, vodka, or anything you prefer.
The Rickey itself dates to the late 1800s, or so the story goes, and is supposedly named after one Col. Joe Rickey, a Washington lobbyist. Yes, they had political lobbyists in the 19th century, too. It’s been said that he was a regular at a popular DC bar, where he enjoyed his gin with soda and lime. Others claim it was bourbon, however, we still call the family of drinks, Rickey, in his honor. Whether it’s a deserved honor is topic for debate, but it’s called Rickey nonetheless.
In the bigger picture, the Rickey is a highball cocktail, served in a tall glass, and similar the Fizz, the Collins, and the Buck. At it’s heart, a highball is spirit and soda, served in a tall glass with ice. If you add lime, it becomes a Rickey. If you use ginger ale or ginger beer instead of soda, it becomes a Buck. Got it? Good, because those definitions are quite general, and not very specific. Dig into cocktail literature of the past and find various definitions of each, all slightly different, yet all generally the same. Rickeys have soda, Bucks have ginger ale, Collinses/Fizzes have sugar, and all of them, except the Fizz, has ice.
Let’s look at it from another angle, this time starting with a Sour. A Sour is spirit, juice and sugar. A Gin Sour, then, could be made with gin, lemon, and sugar, and served up, which is most delicious all by itself, but if you top that Gin Sour with soda, you’ve made a Gin Fizz. On the other hand, if you pour all the ingredients into a collins glass with ice, then stir it, you’ve made a Gin Collins. Note that neither the Gin Sour, nor the Gin Fizz are served with ice, which, as a side note, is why the fizz glass is smaller than a collins glass, even though they are both highballs. If you make the Collins without sugar, it’s a Rickey. If you make the Collins without sugar, and use ginger ale, it’s a Buck.
Oh, by the way, a Buck is also called a Mule. Moscow Mule? Yeah, it’s a Buck. Missing in all of this is the matter of egg white. Fizzes often contain egg white, and if you order a fizz, that’s how it will likely be. Think Ramos Gin Fizz, and that tall egg froth sticking up from the glass, but Fizzes don’t always have to have egg white, they just mostly sometimes do. Which makes the Fizz a close relative of the Flip which uses the entire egg, or sometimes just the yolk. But we’re not worried about Flips, or any of the other highballs apart from the Rickey.
You can add any spirit to soda and juice and have a Rickey, but our choice is gin. The Gin Rickey looks alot like a Gin and Tonic, but that’s where the similarities end, and it’s not fair to consider the Gin Rickey as a lesser version of the two. Where the GnT is tart and bracing, the Gin Rickey is simply refreshing, and, surprisingly, doesn’t cry out for any sweetener. Of course, it’s perfectly acceptable to add a bit of syrup if you’re burdened with a sweet tooth, but we encourage you to try it as specified before adding sugar.
As for gin, one of our favorites with lime is Aria Gin. It’s our choice for many gin-with-lime drinks, and we’ll stick with it here, matching it with a quality soda. Soda should be simply carbonated water, so read the label before buying, and avoid the ones with salt and other additives, or, make your own. We use an iSi Soda Siphon with plenty of CO2 and tap water. Portland water is chlorine free and perfectly fine once filtered, so open the tap and fill your siphon to the fill line, or as directed by your siphon instructions. Let the siphon chill until ice cold, then charge with 2 8-gram cartridges. We use Leland, but any will work. Once charged, give the siphon a good shake, and stick it in the fridge for at least 4 hours. We charge our soda the night before we need it because the siphon has to sit in the cold so the water can absorb the CO2. If you use it right away, the water will come out because of the pressure, but it won’t be fizzy.
Whether you use bottled or homemade soda, assembling the Gin Rickey is easy. Put it in a glass and stir. Figuring out every derivative of this simple recipe...well, that’s not so easy. Pour a drink first, then ponder the various types of highball. Soon you’ll be wondering, “who’s on first?”
1 1/2 oz Aria Gin
1/2 oz Lime juice
6-8 oz Soda
Add gin, lime, and soda to an ice filled collins glass and gently stir to mix. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Try these cocktails