Summer syrup series: Lime cordial

My past Friday Night Cocktail posts have more-or-less reflected simply what I’m drinking at the time, with no particular overarching theme. For the next few weeks, that’s going to change, as I launch the Summer Syrup Series.

Syrups are an indispensable part of mixology, and have been ever since the days of Jerry Thomas. Early on, a few basic types covered most needs: gomme syrup, raspberry syrup, pineapple syrup. These days, the sky’s the limit. For example, the Food & Wine Cocktails 2011 book includes recipes for black lime syrup, Chinese five-spice syrup, fennel syrup, juniper syrup, spiced honey syrup and vanilla spice syrup, to name a few. (This is a trend that I find somewhat frustrating, because the recipes are often scaled for bar-sized batches, and are so idiosyncratic in their flavour profiles that I can’t easily substitute them into other drinks. But I digress.)

Still, there are a few staple syrups in the modern bar that everyone should be familiar with, and those are what I’m going to cover in these posts. While most of these essential cocktail syrups can be bought, they can also be easily made at home, and the homemade versions often taste better.

Drinking culture abounds with rules of thumb: red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat, for example. For cocktails, a useful rule of thumb is brown spirits in winter, white spirits in summer. This is not to say there aren’t exceptions, but I certainly tend to drink more white rum, blanco tequila and gin in the summertime. And one of my favourite summer gin drinks is the Gimlet. It’s easy to mix, it’s a crowd pleaser and it’s highly refreshing. It’s also got a long pedigree, albeit one whose details are somewhat fuzzy, not unlike your recollection of last night’s adventures. (Check out this good exploration of the Gimlet’s backstory.)

The key ingredient in the Gimlet is lime cordial, and the benchmark for lime cordials is Rose’s. But you can also make it yourself. I made mine as a downsized batch of this recipe, omitting the rosewater and using an acid blend that I bought at a home-brewing store in place of the citric and tartaric acid. You could use citric acid alone, though the amount may need to be adjusted; the cordial should be tart and refreshing, but not overly puckery.

How to make lime cordial

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. acid blend (or citric acid)
  • 1/2 cup lime juice + juice of 1 additional lime
  • Peel of 1 and 1/3 limes
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, sliced

Mix the sugar and acid together.
Bring the water to the boil , then add the sugar/acid blend and stir to dissolve completely.
Add the lime juice, lime peel, and lime leaves, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, cover, and allow to cool. Steep overnight in the fridge.
The next day, strain the mixture, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Bottle and store in the fridge.

How to make a Gimlet

  • 1.5 oz. gin
  • 3/4 oz. homemade lime cordial (or to taste)

Build the gin and lime cordial in a short glass over ice. Stir to combine. (Note that some people assume that Gimlets are made with vodka. They’re wrong. I won’t judge you if you want a “vodka Gimlet,” but “Gimlet,” unmodified, should always be gin. Too bad this doesn’t bear out in the real world.)

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