The gimlet first rose to fame in the 19th century as the drink of choice among sailors in the British Royal Navy. Made with a 50/50 mixture of tepid gin and lime cordial, it was pretty noxious stuff, at least by modern standards. But it served a purpose: with a healthy dose of vitamin C (from the lime), it helped stave off scurvy, the cause of many a Victorian seafarer’s demise.
These days, drinkers are more likely to seek out the cocktail for its palate-pleasing abilities instead of its nutritional benefits. The basic recipe has also evolved to include a thoroughly modern addition—ice—and goes way easier on the sweet stuff.
Along with that evolution, the rules for what constitutes a real gimlet have softened, too. Between gin and vodka, cordial and fresh lime, the drink’s basic elements are as much a starting point as they are a whole cocktail genre unto itself. As these nine recipes demonstrate, a gimlet can embrace a wide range of spirits, fruit juices, and aromatics. You could even say they put a whole new spin on what it means to be a limey.
1. Classic Gimlet
The original gimlet may have called for a 50/50 mix of gin and lime cordial, but most drinkers these days prefer to let the gin or vodka take the lead. The result? A brisk cocktail with just the right amount of a citrusy kick. Get our Classic Gimlet recipe.
2. Vodka Gimlet with Umeboshi Plums
If you still believe that your spirits should come with a bracing wallop, however, try experimenting with your extras. This riff adds the intensely sour punch of umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums), as well as the tingly kick of a ginger simple syrup. Get our Vodka Gimlet with Umeboshi Plums recipe.
3. Basil Gimlet
Gin contains juniper and other aromatics, which gives it a floral quality that’s worth accentuating. By muddling some basil into the mix, you’ve got something akin to a garden in the glass. Get the recipe here.
4. Cucumber Basil Gimlet Cocktail
It’s easy being green when you’ve got cucumber, herbs, and a squirt of fresh lime shaken together to create this cooling, summery, and verdant concoction. Get the recipe here.
5. Blackberry Mint Gimlet
In The Savoy Cocktail Book, a drinks bible from the 1930s, there’s a recipe for a “gimblet,” which finishes off the gimlet with a splash of soda. This recipe falls in that tradition, adding a few hue-enhancing blackberries along the way. Get the recipe here.
6. Rhubarb Gimlet
Think pink! Rhubarb syrup adds some rosy color and an extra hint of pucker to these perfectly pretty cocktails. Get the recipe here.
7. Blueberry Basil Vodka Gimlet
Blue cocktails are rarely as dazzling as their hue might suggest, except when they’re tinted with naturally colorful ingredients like blueberry. This extra fruity gimlet will have you sipping the blues, instead of singing them. Get the recipe here.
8. Celery Gimlet
Make sure you drink your veggies! Celery juice and bitters add an unexpected savory note that tangoes not only with the gin, but also with the intense aromatics of chartreuse and elderflower liqueur. Get the recipe here.
9. Concord Grape Gimlet
These sour grapes in a glass are hardly worth grumbling about. With a refreshing balance of tart and sweet, this cocktail makes the most out of a farmers’ market favorite. Get the recipe here.
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.