Toast Gin Season in DC with an Ice Cold RickeyMany large cities are known for their own signature libations. For New Orleans, it’s the Sazerac, and New York, the Manhattan. In 2011, the DC City Council named the Rickey DC's official cocktail which, not surprisingly, has as much of a storied political background as anything else in DC. In the late 1880s, power brokers and politicians congregated at Shoomaker’s Bar where one-day lobbyist Colonel Joe Rickey added lime to his morning dose of bourbon, ice and sparkling, inadvertently inventing the “Joe Rickey.” A few years later, gin replaced bourbon and became the more popular “gin rickey,” a refreshing cocktail suited to DC’s humid and sticky summers. Even Gatsby and Daisy enjoyed one on a “broiling” summer day in The Great Gatsby.
In the past, July has been designated as Rickey Month in DC by the DC Bartender’s Guild, with an annual competition inviting local bartenders to compete in making the best Rickey. Plenty of DC bars have their own versions of a Rickey and the original Shoomaker’s, now the site of 1331 Bar in the J.W. Marriott Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, has a plaque commemorating the Rickey invention. But you don’t even have to leave your house to enjoy a perfect Rickey: just fill a glass with ice, add gin (or bourbon), squeeze in half a lime (no sugar or sweetener allowed-it should be tart, not sweet), finish with tonic water and enjoy your DC original “refrigerator in a glass” cocktail. Although it may sound easy, the trick to a good Rickey is getting the proportion of alcohol, citrus and water just right. And, as Col. Rickey himself advised in a handwritten 1895 note: “Don’t drink too many.”