Rediscovering the Rickey

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Gin Rickey

T.S. Eliot began his landmark poem, The Waste Land, with the memorable line, "April is the cruelest month."

Eliot obviously never spent July or August in Washington, D.C.

Considering the hair-melting heat to be found in the nation's capital during summer's peak, it's not surprising that the city's primary contribution to mixology is the long, cooling drink known as the Rickey. As Jason Wilson writes in today's Washington Post, the combination of spirit (originally bourbon, but more commonly made with gin), lime juice, and soda water was named for Colonel Joe Rickey, a former Confederate soldier and longtime lobbyist. He is credited with first combining the ingredients sometime around the turn of the last century at Shoemaker's Bar, a Capitol Hill watering hole.

With the summer heat once again at hand, the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild declared July as Rickey Month, and bartenders devised their own 21st century version of the venerable drink. Wilson took an extended crawl through participating establishments, experiencing rickeys ranging from a more-or-less classic version made with bourbon, ginger and honey, to more off-the-wall modern-day versions such as one made with herb-infused shochu and yuzu juice.

I have yet to try the version made with gin and a housemade black pepper & lime soda, but with the temperature in my own part of the country venturing into the hot and sticky realm, the timeless gin rickey seems mighty appealing. What are you finding yourself turning to this summer to help you beat the heat? We've still got to make our way through August, so keep the drink suggestions coming.

About the author: Paul Clarke blogs about cocktails at The Cocktail Chronicles and writes regularly on spirits and cocktails for Imbibe magazine. He lives in Seattle, where he works as a writer and magazine editor.

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