Gin Rickey

In The Speakeasies of 1932,this is the drink of choice selected by Bob, the bartender at the Press Grill, which was located at 152 E.Forty-First Street, near the largest of the city’s tabloid newspapers. This seems most appropriate as no other drink—or series of drinks in the case of the Rickeys —has such close ties to the world of journalism as the Gin Rickey, or as it is sometimes called, the Lime Rickey.

  • 1 lime
  • 1 glass of gin
  • Soda or seltzer water

Preparation: Place a piece of ice in a tumbler. Cut a fresh lime in half and squeeze the juice in the glass. Add one glass of gin and fill balance with seltzer or soda water.

Cultural context: The Gin Rickey was created at Shoemaker's in Washington D.C., a popular hangout for newspaper folks along Newspaper Row, which was at a right angle to Rum Row. Both Rows flourished in the years after the Civil War and into Prohibition. Rum Row included the Lawrence Hotel, Tim Sullivan’s popular bar, which sported a beer garden and Shoemaker’s Tavern. George Rothwell Brown recounted that Col. Joseph Rickey, a St. Louis lobbyist and drinkmeister at nearby Shoemaker’s Tavern, was the originator of the “Whiskey Rickey,” composed of whiskey, Apollinaris water, (sparkling water), and lime juice, later made with gin and called the “Gin Rickey.”

There are many versions of the story, but the most often repeated involves a fruit vendor entering the bar on an especially hot night and Ricky grabbing a fresh lime. He then asked the bartender to create a drink using juice of the lime. The drink was later modified for gin and other liquors. As the Washington Post reported during the end of the 1894 Democratic convention: “The convention adjourned along about half past 2 o’clock this morning and from that time until long after daybreak there was great joy everywhere. The favorite joy producers were Rickeys of various makes and of various degrees of strength. There were gin Rickeys and whisky Rickeys and brandy Rickeys and every other kind of Rickey known to mortal man.”