Get Nerdy With The Rickey
Delightfully refreshing, low-ABV and with no added sugars, the Rickey Cocktail is a rather unique classic you definitely need to know. Sadly, the key element to a Rickey – its lack of sugar – is the one element that’s often misunderstood or simply ignored.
Many a Rickey cocktail recipe out there uses sugar to balance the acidity of the fresh citrus juice in the drink. This approach is perfectly acceptable for a Collins or Fizz for example. However, the whole point of the Rickey is supposed to be the use of additional sparkling water to quench the acidity of the citrus, and NOT using sugar to balance the recipe.
With all this in mind, here’s our take on how we think the Rickey should be done right.
Let’s Look At The Ingredients
01. Base Spirit
The original Rickey cocktail recipe was made with Bourbon and is still a great option. However, the Gin Rickey cocktail is the version that became most famous and delivers a crisp dry and refreshing cocktail. Gin’s complexity gives the drink plenty of flavour whilst keeping it light and bright and it’s no wonder it became the most popular.
You really can mix whatever your favourite spirit is into this recipe, but for a slightly more unusual recommendation, try Genever.
Genever is the old style of Dutch ‘Gin’ that uses both botanicals and grain spirit to create a taste that’s like a perfect blend between Gin and Whisk(e)y, delicious! It’s also a fun nod to the Whisk(e)y origins of the Rickey and its subsequent popularisation with Gin.
If you like the idea of the Rickey but want something more casual that’s perfect for hanging out with friends around the grill or watching sports, then you need to try Ranch Water!
Ranch Water is a modern classic from West Texas, originally made by adding Tequila and a squeeze of fresh lime juice to a bottle of Topo Chico sparkling water. (Having first drunk a couple of ounces of water from the bottle to make room). Even though Ranch Water looks very different, it’s essentially a tequila Rickey with a very practical and casual serving style that requires no ice and leaves you no washing up!
Use this as inspiration and make your own spirit and sparkling water mix in a glass or bottle.
02. Fresh Lime Juice
Squeeze it fresh, a good guide here is 1/2 a lime per serve.
You can buy good fresh juice these days more easily if you are making a lot of drinks, but do make sure it’s for drinking, not for cooking. Also check that it’s not pasteurised and it’s not on a shelf at room temperature…because if it is, that’s NOT fresh juice!
If you’re not buying from a specialist juice supplier, we’d suggest playing safe and squeezing your own. Bad juice is just going to ruin your other ingredients and ruin your day. Lime is a crucial component to this drink, you might have even heard it called a Lime Rickey cocktail!
03. Sparkling water
For the Rickey we recommend something with high carbonation (strong bubbles) that will keep the drink nice and fizzy when mixed with the other ingredients.
Making your own is a good way to control the level of carbonation and be more waste conscious. If you take this approach, make sure to use very cold water to carbonate. Cold water will absorb more CO2 therefore helping you to make a more carbonated and therefor fizzier water.
Let’s Go Beyond The Rickey Cocktail Ingredients
The Rickey was originally made with Bourbon, and created for Joe Rickey, a lobbyist from Washington DC, in the late 1800s.
He put forward a theory that by avoiding ingesting sugar, you could stay cooler in the summer heat. So instead of using sugar to balance out the acidity of the lime juice, like you would in a Daiquiri for example. He decided that by using less lime and more sparkling water, he could create a long refreshing drink without the need for any sugar.
Little did he know that his omittance of sugar would be right on trend over a hundred years later! The ABV (alcohol by volume) is also spot on, as it’s lower than a standard cocktail. This is because, compared to a regular highball, the amount of sparkling water is doubled to quell the acidity of the lime juice, as mentioned above.
Crisp, dry and refreshing, it’s a great concept for a hot and thirsty day! Soon after its creation, it was customized with all sorts of base spirits, and the Gin Rickey cocktail became the most popular of all.
Today we also have Ranch Water. A modern classic in its own right, however it’s no stretch to recognize Ranch Water as a Tequila Rickey in a bottle. Tequila, fresh lime juice and Topo Chico, all conveniently served in the bottle. Ranch Water gives you the ease, practicality and refreshing qualities of a bottle of beer, but without all those pesky carbs that come with it, if you care about that sort of thing?
In the mindset of evolution and experimentation, there’s no reason you can’t take this format and mix fresh lime juice with any spirit you like, into whatever bottle of sparkling water you like. No matter how good it tastes though, just don’t call it Ranch Water if you don’t use Tequila and Topo Chico, name it something else and share it with the world!