The Roommate just emailed me to ask about a T Magazine (what, NYT, one magazine isn’t good enough?) article on the “proper Gimlet”. It was a fine article, pointing out the (blindingly obvious) fact that the classic recipe for a Gimlet calls for lime cordial, the current avatar of which is the execrable Rose’s. The problem is that the article at once condemns (as “resolutely incorrect”) the current practice of using fresh lime juice and syrup instead of cordial in preparing the drink while at the same time making several alterations that are equally “incorrect”. First, the author makes a raw syrup that probably resembles only in name the cordials of the late 18th century, which were undoubtedly cooked and heavily sugared for maximum shelf-life (the author also laughably thinks that the citrus juice will somehow cook the peels, as if it were a lime-on-lime ceviche, but I digress).
Second, the author recommends coming up with “your own” ratio for the drink. “Start with however much cordial you think you might like — and lowball it; you can always add more. When you reach your sugar threshold, squeeze two fat lime wedges into it, stir it and settle in.” This is doubly “incorrect”. Tastes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries veered strongly to what we would consider overly sweet, so it is likely that the 1:1 ratio recommended to Marlowe was correct. Also, where were the sailors who putatively invented this drink to get the fresh limes? The whole point of the cordial was to preserve such a perishable fruit’s vitamin C.
Although it may not be apparent, I’m not writing this post in order to score points in some obscure game of mixological one-upmanship. I’m here to announce that I’m bowing out of it, at least until next time something annoys me when I have time to respond to it. If you want to make your Gimlets with homemade cordial, great – make one for me. Rose’s, well, sure, I guess you could do that. Lime juice and syrup is where you’ll find me; my fridge is too goddamn full of homemade syrups to fit any cordials, and I happen to like the modern version.
In a recent post on Food in Italy, Zachary Nowak takes a stand against what he calls “philological food”: “The Italy of today is obsessed like no other country with yoking what it eats for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to what Italians ate in the past.” Regardless of what you think about this statement and the argument he marshals to explain it, I think we can all agree that the same could be said about today’s cocktail movement. The tricky concept of authenticity is used to justify all kinds of claims. Let’s recognize that the past is a country we can speculate about, but never visit. We can learn some things from it, but, even if we could recreate it, would we want to?
In the same article, Nowak writes
Italian food philology leads back either to a dish of banality, or (even worse) to an empty cupboard. I do not mean that there are no dishes that strongly resemble their culinary forbearers. Polenta, made from cooked mais flour, does indeed resemble the polenta of the Roman legions, other than the fact that is made with a grain that was only introduced to Europe in the 1500s.
Couldn’t we say the same about mixology? Eventually it all leads back to exigency and excess. I like a Cock-Tail as much as the next person, and a bowl of punch more than that guy, probably, but there is much that is modern and without precedent that is worth enjoying. And, in the case of the above, modern lime cordial, which is as clear a departure as any fresh lime juice Gimlet, can’t we all agree to be “resolutely incorrect”?
I’d prefer it to going back to Rose’s.