The Gin Rickey is essentially a Tom Collins with no sugar and lime in place of lemon. Unlike the Collins, the Rickey’s name is derived from a real person. Colonel Joe Rickey was a veteran of the Civil War who became a Washington lobbyist. Colonel Joe was a regular at the now defunct D.C. watering hole Shoomaker’s. The cocktail was first mixed during the blazingly hot 1883 summer campaign season by bartender George Williamson, as the ingredients were dictated to him by Colonel Joe. At the time, the refreshing libation was made with Shoomaker’s house label rye.
When Prohibition hit, people continued to drink Rickeys even without the booze. The early 20th century mocktail was a refreshing break from boring, flavorless water—even if it didn’t give them a buzz. But after the repeal of the 18th amendment in 1933, folks began spiking the mix of lime juice and soda once again. Though the original base spirit for the Rickey was whiskey, the gin version has proved itself to be more popular in modern times. Because this is such a simple cocktail, any gin you prefer works well. A London Dry like Beefeater or Tanqueray gives it a classic flavor, while something like Hendrick’s lends floral notes to the citrusy mix. If you want to get fancy and make the tastiest Rickey ever, Nikka Coffey Gin adds delightful licorice and spice flavors. And always remember that freshly squeezed lime juice makes all the difference in a simple cocktail like the Rickey.