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What is a Gin Rickey?

Gin Rickey

Have you ever craved a drink that captures the essence of summer? 

A concoction that bursts with citrusy vibrance and leaves you feeling cool and refreshed? 

Then look no further than the Gin Rickey, a timeless cocktail boasting a surprisingly rich history.

This seemingly simple drink, a marriage of gin, lime, and soda, is more than meets the eye. 

Its journey from 19th-century saloons to modern mixology makes for a fantastic addition to your cocktail repertoire. 

Today, we delve into the world of the Gin Rickey, exploring its origins, how it’s evolved over time, and most importantly, how to craft your own perfect versions.

The Origins of the Gin Rickey

The Gin Rickey, with its clean lines and refreshing simplicity, feels like it’s always been around. 

Its origins lie nestled in the late 19th century, a time of burgeoning American culture and a burgeoning thirst for innovation. 

The tale begins with a man named Colonel Joe Rickey, a flamboyant Democratic lobbyist with a penchant for bespoke beverages. 

It is said that Rickey, weary of overly sweet cocktails, often frequented a Washington D.C. saloon called Shoomaker’s. 

There, in a haze of cigar smoke and political intrigue, he partnered with the wily bartender, George Williamson. 

In the summer of 1883 Rickey, known for his discerning palate, is said to have first conceived the signature drink. 

Rickey didn’t initially reach for gin, instead, the first iteration was a “rye Rickey,” featured Shoomaker’s own house-label whiskey. 

While Colonel Joe remained loyal to his original concoction, gin would soon take centre stage, sparking a whole family of refreshing “Rickey” cocktails that continue to be popular today. 

This was a period of great experimentation in American bars, a sort of “cocktail renaissance.” 

Bartenders were alchemists, mixing and matching spirits with fruits and spices to create flavourful elixirs. 

The Gin Rickey, with its focus on simplicity and balance, perfectly captured this spirit. 

It was a refreshing counterpoint to the syrupy concoctions of the time, a true pioneer in the world of highball cocktails. 

Whether the origin story is entirely true remains a bit of a mystery, lost in the smoky haze of those early saloons. 

However, there’s no doubt that Colonel Rickey played a significant role in popularising this now-iconic drink. 

Understanding the Classic Recipe 

The beauty of the Gin Rickey lies in its simplicity. 

Unlike some cocktails that boast a wide array of ingredients, this classic relies on just a handful of high-quality elements to deliver a burst of refreshing flavour.

The foundation, of course, is gin – a juniper-infused spirit with a botanical complexity that adds depth to the drink. 

The amount of gin is perfectly balanced, allowing the other stars of the show to shine.

Next comes the lime, the undisputed hero of the Gin Rickey. 

A squeeze of fresh lime juice injects a vibrant citrusy note that cuts through the richness of the gin and awakens the palate. 

Don’t underestimate the power of that freshly squeezed juice – it’s what elevates the Gin Rickey from good to truly exceptional.

Soda water, the silent maestro of the drink, also plays a crucial role. 

Its gentle fizz not only adds a lightness but also helps to carry the flavours across, ensuring a truly refreshing experience with every sip.

The proportions are key. 

A good Gin Rickey strikes a perfect harmony between the botanical depth of the gin, the invigorating tartness of the lime, and the lively effervescence of the soda water. 

It’s a testament to the power of balance, a symphony of flavours that’s as simple as it is satisfying.

Evolution of the Gin Rickey

The Gin Rickey, much like the ever-evolving world of mixology, hasn’t remained stagnant over the years. 

While the core principles of simplicity and refreshment have endured, the recipe has cleverly adapted to changing tastes and trends.

Creative interpretations of the Gin Rickey has led to new layers of flavour and intrigue. 

Take, for instance, the rise of flavoured gins in recent decades. 

A touch of lavender or cucumber-infused gin can lend a floral or herbaceous note to the drink. 

Historical figures like F. Scott Fitzgerald even played a role in the Gin Rickey’s evolution. 

His iconic novel, The Great Gatsby, features the drink prominently, solidifying its association with the glamour and extravagance of the Roaring Twenties.

Modern mixologists continue to push boundaries, crafting variations that pay homage to the classic while offering unique flavour profiles. 

Some might introduce a splash of elderflower liqueur for a touch of sweetness, while others might experiment with muddled berries or a touch of smoked paprika for an unexpected twist.

The possibilities are endless, proving that even the simplest classics can offer a surprising depth of flavour and a journey of discovery for the adventurous imbiber.

Two Unique Gin Rickey Recipes

Let’s explore two unique takes on this classic cocktail. 

First, featuring our award-winning Henley Gin – a London Dry bursting with flavour. 

  1. Classic Twist with a Herbal Infusion

Here, we’ll elevate the traditional recipe by infusing the gin with a touch of rosemary, adding a beautiful herbal layer to the drink. 


  • 50ml Henley Gin
  • 25ml Fresh Lime Juice
  • 10ml Simple Syrup (equal parts sugar and water dissolved)
  • Soda Water, to top
  • Sprig of Rosemary (for infusion and garnish)


  1. In a shaker, muddle the rosemary sprig gently to release its fragrant oils. Add the Henley Gin, lime juice, and simple syrup.
  2. Fill the shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds.
  3. Strain the mixture into a highball glass filled with fresh ice.
  4. Top with chilled soda water, gently stirring to combine.


The resulting cocktail boasts a brilliant interplay of flavours. 

Henley Gin’s citrusy notes from orange peel and lemongrass are beautifully complemented by the lime juice, while the rosemary infusion adds a subtle herbal depth.

 The Szechuan peppercorns and cardamom from the gin peek through subtly, adding a touch of warmth and complexity. 


For a finishing touch, garnish your Gin Rickey with a fresh sprig of rosemary. 

This not only adds a touch of visual appeal but also allows the drinker to further enhance the aromatic experience by brushing the sprig against their nose before sipping.

2. Fruity Fusion Variation

Featuring another one of our award-winning gins, the Rhubarb & Orange – a springtime symphony in a glass.

This variation bursts with vibrant citrus and tart fruit notes, making it the perfect choice for a sunny afternoon.


  • 50ml Henley Rhubarb & Orange Gin
  • 25ml Freshly Squeezed Grapefruit Juice
  • 10ml Elderflower Liqueur (optional)
  • Soda Water, to top
  • Fresh Orange Wedge (for garnish)


  1. In a shaker filled with ice, combine the Henley Rhubarb & Orange Gin and grapefruit juice.
  2. (Optional) If using elderflower liqueur, add 10ml to the shaker along with the gin and grapefruit juice.
  3. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds to chill and combine the flavours.
  4. Strain the mixture into a highball glass filled with fresh ice.
  5. Top with chilled soda water, stirring gently to integrate the fizzy element.

Symphony of Spring

Our Rhubarb & Orange Gin takes centre stage, with its delicate balance of orange zest and tart rhubarb. 

The grapefruit juice adds a sharper citrus note that complements the gin beautifully. 

Opting for elderflower liqueur (optional) introduces a hint of floral sweetness, further enhancing the drink’s springtime appeal.


For a finishing touch, garnish your Fruity Fusion Rickey with a fresh orange wedge. 

The vibrant orange hue adds a pop of colour, while the oils released from the peel will further enhance the citrusy elements in the drink. 

Squeeze the wedge gently over the cocktail before dropping it in, releasing those fragrant oils for a truly multi-sensory experience.

With its burst of fruity flavours and refreshing fizz, this Fruity Fusion variation is sure to become your go-to drink for warmer days.

Pairing Suggestions and Serving Tips

The Gin Rickey, in all its simplicity, can be the star of the show or a great  accompaniment to a meal. Here’s how to elevate your Gin Rickey experience with perfect pairings and top serving tips:

Food Pairings

The Gin Rickey’s bright citrus notes and refreshing fizz make it a match made in heaven for a variety of dishes. Here are some winning combinations to consider:

  • Seafood: The bright acidity of the Gin Rickey cuts beautifully through the richness of oily fish like salmon or tuna. Lighter options like ceviche or grilled prawns also find a perfect partner in this drink. 
  • Salty Snacks: The interplay of sweet, salty, and sour makes the Gin Rickey a great companion to charcuterie boards, salty olives, or even a plate of crispy fish and chips.
  • Spicy: The citrus and fizz can help tame the heat of spicy dishes like Thai curries or Korean BBQ.
  • Fresh and Light Salads: The refreshing nature of the Gin Rickey complements the vibrancy of summer salads with light dressings and seasonal ingredients.

Serving Up 

Presentation matters! Here are some tips for serving your Gin Rickey like a pro:

  • Glassware: Tall highball glasses are the classic choice, allowing ample space for ice and the refreshing fizz to mingle.
  • Ice, Ice Baby: Use large, clear ice cubes that melt slowly, ensuring your drink stays chilled without dilution.
  • Garnishing: A simple lime wedge is the traditional garnish, but feel free to get creative! For a herbal twist, try a sprig of rosemary or mint. If you’re feeling fruity, opt for a slice of grapefruit or a few fresh berries.
  • The Perfect Pour: Don’t drown your drink! Fill the glass with ice first, then add the gin, lime juice, and any additional ingredients. Top gently with soda water, leaving space for the bubbles.

With these pairings and serving tips in mind, you’re well on your way to crafting the perfect Gin Rickey experience. 


The beauty of the Gin Rickey lies in its versatility. 

Whether you’re a purist who prefers the clean lines of the original recipe, or an adventurer seeking a fruity twist or an herbal infusion, there’s a Gin Rickey variation waiting to be discovered.

So, why not grab your favourite highball glass, muddle some rosemary, or slice a juicy grapefruit? 

With the recipes provided and a spirit of exploration, you’re well on your way to crafting your own perfect Gin Rickey experience. 

Don’t forget to share your creations with us! –  contact us here.