History Of The Gimlet.
This common history of the gimlet is it was invented by Sir Thomas Desmond Gimlette, a doctor for the British Royal Navy sometime in the early 1900s, who thought to mix lime juice with gin.
The issue with this is I can’t find any evidence of this. I’ve searched the British digital national archives, Royal Navy medical records, Uk newspapers, and periodicals. While I can find records on Thomas Gimlette, I can’t find any record of him prescribing or administering lime and gin or being invented by him. The two earliest Gimlet recipes I can find in books come from the 1923 book “Harry of Ciro’s ABC of Mixing” and the 1930 “Savoy Cocktail Book.” Both recipes are the same. Both are half lime cordial and dry gin. If Harry Craddock and Harry McElhone agree on this recipe, there must be something to it. McElhone even states in his book that the Gimlet is popular among the UK Navy.
Investigating lime cordial’s use a bit deeper, I can find an advertisement from 1872 (reprinted in an 1874 directory) by Rose & Co stating their new sweetened lime juice cordial goes well with gin, rum, and whisky. In 1868 Lauchlan Rose, a Royal naval goods supplier, invented a method of preserving concentrated lime juice with sugar instead of alcohol. Alcohol was the preferred method of preserving citrus for seamen, but the intense sour flavor was off-putting to most people, and many seamen would dilute the citrus concentrate with their daily booze rations to dilute the taste (This is the origin of sour cocktails). As a naval supplier, Lauchlan Rose began selling his improved citrus concentrate to the Royal Navy, quickly becoming a hit with the sailors. The sailors still mixed their daily ration of citrus concentrate with their ration of alcohol, and thus the gimlet was born. Perhaps it was named after Sir Thomas Desmond Gimlette or the gimlet tool, but its origin seems more closely related to the Rose company than any specific person.
- 1874 The London and Suburban Licensed Victualler, Hotel and Tavern Keepers Directory – Miles
- 1923 Harry Of Ciro’s ABCs of Mixing – McElhone
- 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book – Craddock