The rickey got its start in the 1880s, but gained popularity as a gin cocktail during the early 20th century. F. Scott Fitzgerald was a particular fan of gin cocktails. In his classic 1920s-era novel The Great Gatsby, the character Tom Buchanan makes a batch of gin rickeys to share on a broiling hot summer’s day.
What Is a Gin Rickey?
The gin rickey is named for Joe Rickey, a lobbyist in 19th century Washington, D.C. The drink was created in 1883 at Rickey’s request at a bar called Shoomaker’s. Though the original rickey featured bourbon, in subsequent years gin surpassed bourbon as the liquor of choice in this refreshing cocktail.
Gin Rickey vs. Gin and Tonic
The main difference between a gin rickey and a gin and tonic is the use of club soda in lieu of tonic water. But a rickey also gets a squeeze of lime juice in addition to a lime garnish.
Not sure what the difference is between club soda and tonic water? Here’s how to tell the two apart.
How to Make a Gin Rickey
The recipe below makes one drink.
- 2 ounces gin
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
- Club soda, to top
- Lime wheels or wedge, for garnish
Step 1: Ice, ice baby
Fill a highball or Collins glass with ice. No need to fret over which glass. The Collins is only slightly taller and both can be used for similar drinks.
Step 2: Simply pour it together
Pour the gin and lime juice into the glass. No need to shake or stir.
Step 3: Make it sparkle
Top with club soda.
Step 4: Put a lime in it
Garnish with a lime wheel or lime wedge. Or, if you want to make it extra fancy, use a mandoline to cut thin slices of fresh lime. (Here’s how to use a mandoline safely.) Use a chopstick or thin knife to carefully slide the slices down the walls of the glass pre-filled with ice; the ice will help keep the lime wheels in place.
Gin Rickey Variations
You can easily switch up the flavor of a gin rickey by replacing the club soda with flavored soda water. (Grapefruit sparkling water would be a delicious choice.) In addition to switching gin for bourbon, other rickey variations include using brandy, tequila or rum as the liquor of choice.
Celebrate the Great Gatsby era with more vintage recipes from the 1920s.