Why Don't You ...? Drink A Gimlet Like The British Navy Intended

When the Gimlet was first created, it was made with Rose’s Lime which begs the question, should it be made without it?

By: Tiff Christie|November 11,2022

I was recently re-watching Penny Dreadful City Of Angels as a token nod to Halloween. Although I could remember most of it, there was a short scene set in a bar that I had completely forgotten.

The older detective, Lewis Michener is sitting at the bar with a martini glass in his hand as his younger partner, Tiago Vega comes in. Michener says to the bartender, “Get my partner one of these, Sammy, and use the Rose’s, not that domestic crap”.


He then asks Vega if he likes a Gimlet. When Vega says he’s never had one, Michener says “you’ll like it … and it fights off scurvy too, so that’s a plus.”

Although it’s highly out of fashion now, there was a time when a Gimlet had to be made with Rose’s Lime or not made at all.

Now what’s interesting about that scene is what it doesn’t say, but the inference is that no matter how artificial we think Rose’s Lime is today, in the early 20th century the US market was flooded with Lime concentrates that were even worse. Now if you’ve ever had Sour Mix, this revelation will probably not surprise you, but it does beg the question, ‘should we still be making our Gimlets with Rose’s?

The thing to remember is that the Gimlet is an English drink and for the English (and to some extent the Americans between the wars, when the series is set), Rose’s was the most authentic real lime that you could get. 

Now if you ask a bartender today, they would say that you need to make a Gimlet with real lime juice, and fair enough. Rose’s or any other Lime concentrate is highly processed, but the thing to remember is that the use of real lime was not how the drink was originally created and not how it was originally drunk.


Now it’s fair to assume that the Rose’s we have today is a much more artificial concoction than what was originally created back in the 1860s. In those days Rose’s had the distinction of being the world’s first commercially produced fruit concentrate. And it was for this reason that the Royal Navy of the time adopted the use of Rose’s and the Gimlet as a way of combating scurvy. 

But we do have access to fresh limes, so do we go for fresh or original? An interesting point that bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler raises is that fresh limes don’t add the same tart bitterness to the drink that Rose’s does. So by drinking fresh, you are really not getting all the nuances of the original cocktail. But as Morgenthuler also points out, the flavour of Rose’s really isn’t very good.

perhaps the only way to resolve the issue is to do as Morgenthaler has done and create a compromise through his recipe for Lime Cordial. After all, you can’t get a better recommendation than a liquid that captures the intent of Rose’s, while greatly improving upon the taste.

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Why Don't You ...? Drink A Gimlet Like The British Navy Intended

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