With the presidential election upon us, finally putting to end what is surely one of the most controversial races to date, this nation needs a drink. And thanks to promotion by Derek Brown—mixologist, beverage historian, and owner of several DC-area bars like Columbia Room and Eat the Rich—Washington has its own official drink: the gin rickey.
The rickey has earned its place in history. Back in the 1880s, bartender George A. Williamson created the drink at the infamous Shoemaker’s when he squeezed lime into the morning bourbon and soda of shadowy political fixer Colonel Joe Rickey (who hated it). According to Columbia Room’s head bartender JP Fetherston, the rickey “reached its ultimate expression substituting gin for bourbon, and it became a national phenomenon when it was served at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.” In addition to the rickey, Fetherston gives recipes for two other historic DC drinks: the Flower Pot Punch, once a hit with lawmakers at a bar underneath the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill, and the worldly, sophisticated Hong Kong à la Thomas—a hit with the diplomatic set.
These drinks were created at a time when both the capital and the nation were in flux, the political climate changing. Decision-makers in dim bars were laying the groundwork that shaped the modern-day United States. Who can say how many were lubricated by rickeys as they talked shop?
The Gin Rickey
- ½ lime
- 2 ounces Old Tom gin
- Sparkling mineral water (preferably Apollinaris)
Squeeze lime into a goblet or a highball and drop lime husk into glass. Add gin and ice, top with sparkling mineral water, and garnish with lime.
Flower Pot Punch
- 2 ounces white rum (preferably Banks 5 or Plantation 3 Stars)
- ½ ounce lemon juice
- ½ ounce lime juice
- ½ ounce pineapple syrup
- 1 teaspoon grenadine
Add ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe and garnish with pineapple and orange.
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