Summer's Signature Cocktail

More
brown_july17_rickey_post.jpg

Photo by cogdogblog/Flickr CC


We've been lucky here in the nation's capital. Summer has been mild so far, but the infernal mugginess that leads many to postulate that D.C. was once a swamp soon awaits us. Lugging my laptop to the local coffee shop will become an enormous chore more fitting an athlete. Come to think of it, coffee seems like it may be ill advised. Perhaps, it's time to start drinking actual water and divert my primary water intake from java, Diet Coke and beer?

Under these conditions, my mind turns to one thing, and one thing alone: the only beverage capable of relieving the unbearable heat, the Rickey. In my mind, the Rickey is to summer what Superglue is to adhesives, or Kleenex is to tissues. They're synonymous. To go a summer without the Rickey would be to pop all of the inflatable swimming pools of my youth--I need it to mark the occasion of summer.

I hereby declare July Rickey Month and the Rickey the official-unofficial cocktail of Washington, D.C.

The Rickey is a category of mixed drinks made from a base spirit, half of a lime squeezed and dropped in the glass, and topped with carbonated water. Little or no sugar is added to the Rickey. Originally made with Bourbon whiskey, the Rickey was invented in Washington, D.C. around 1883 at Shoomaker's bar by bartender George A. Williamson, purportedly in collaboration with Democratic lobbyist Colonel Joe Rickey. It became a worldwide sensation when mixed with gin.

Oh, how far this summertime sipper has come! It was once so popular that in a 1907 Los Angeles Herald article titled, "Limes Are On Time," the writer calls two million limes the raw materials for Gin Rickeys. Yet Prohibition and fashion conspired against the District's signature cocktail. Thankfully it's making a resurgence, and none to soon. I could use a drink.

Along with the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild, of which I am a member, I hereby declare July Rickey Month and the Rickey the official-unofficial cocktail of Washington, D.C. If you live in the D.C.-metropolitan area and are over 21 years of age you must have one before the month is over. (I will come to your door and ask you personally when and where you had it.)

To make it easier on you, and save me from wagging a bar spoon in your face, the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild has started an annual contest every July in homage to the Rickey, whereby city bartenders re-imagine the classic cooler. So you can find Rickeys all throughout the city of Washington, D.C. Competing bartenders use everything from corn water to tamarind soda in an attempt to keep the original intent while adding their own creative touch. See here for more information.

I'm going to stick to my recipe for now, but if it gets any hotter I'll look forward to tasting the winning results.

The Rickey


    • 2 oz. Old Tom Gin
    • Half of a lime
    • Apollinaris Water

Squeeze lime and drop in glass. Add ice to goblet or tall glass. Use spoon in glass. Pour gin over ice and top with soda. Stir and serve.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He sits on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail. More

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He travels throughout the country and around the world in search of great drinks, and the stories behind them. Derek's methodical approach to cocktails was profiled in the Wall Street Journal's "A Master of Mixological Science" and his martini lauded as the best in America by GQ. He's been in numerous media outlets featuring his approach to better drinking, including CNN, The Rachel Maddow Show and FOX. Derek is a founding member of the D.C. Craft Bartender's Guild and on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail.
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Sad Desk Lunch: Is This How You Want to Die?

How to avoid working through lunch, and diseases related to social isolation.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where Time Comes From

The clocks that coordinate your cellphone, GPS, and more

Video

Computer Vision Syndrome and You

Save your eyes. Take breaks.

Video

What Happens in 60 Seconds

Quantifying human activity around the world

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In