The Rickey Cocktail

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Trying to follow the trajectory and history of a cocktail can always turn into an interesting adventure, because you never know who might have invented it,  or under which circumstances. Certain very popular mixed drinks were invented by historical figures, artists and personalities; some cocktails were created by mistake, others by need, while others had to do with important historical events. The cocktail we present in this article is one of those mixed drinks which has a little to do with history as well; it is called The Rickey cocktail, and it was invented by bartender George A. Williamson in the 1880s at the Shoomaker bar in Washington D.C.

The story is that The Rickey cocktail was created by Williamson in collaboration with Colonel Joe Rickey, a Democratic lobbyist who probably frequented the place. In their original recipe, the cocktail was made with bourbon, half of lime and sparkling mineral water. The details of the story are that the cocktail became what it is when Williamson squeezed half a lime over Rickey’s “mornin’s morning”, which was a simple mixture of bourbon and soda water. However, it only became truly popular a year later, when someone prepared the recipe with gin instead of bourbon, and this caught fast with the public.

When the gin version of The Rickey cocktail became very popular, the original one got the name of “Joe Rickey”. Here are the ingredients requires and how you can prepare either of the variants:

  • 2 ounces of bourbon, gin or rye whiskey
  • half a lime
  • sparkling mineral water

This highball cocktail is made by adding your chosen spirits in a highball or wine glass; you squeeze the half lime over the glass, and then drop the wedge in there stirring a little. Next you add ice, stir some more, and top it off in the end with the sparkling water. The Rickey cocktail was so popular at one point that it even features in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great book, The Great Gatsby.

Since 2008, The Rickey has regained some popularity, when a few bartenders from Washington D.C. started a project of cocktail revivals. They assigned each month of the year a long-forgotten but worthy cocktail and on their calendar, July became Rickey Month. A popular version of this is also the Sheeney Rickey, which maintains the original gin recipe, except the lime is no longer dropped in the glass and just its juice is used.

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