A Sure Cure For Brain Frying Heat
A review of the Goose Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 and the story of the Gimlet.
By Joshua E. London and Louis Marmon
Washington Jewish Week June 29, 2011
An excellent accompaniment to salads, grilled chicken and other light summer fare is the Goose Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 ($18). As New Zealand’s first kosher (and mevushal,or boiled) wine, it displays the classic Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc crispness and grassy overtones along with nicely balanced green apple, gooseberry and tropical fruit flavors. The finish is bright and lengthy with a touch of lemon and grapefruit. Served chilled, it is a delightful way to enjoy a warm summer evening.
Goose Bay wines are made by New Zealand’s Spencer Hill Estate located in the South Island Marlborough district in the Upper Moutere hills near the town of Nelson. The area is renowned for its cool-climate wines including pinot noir and sauvignon blanc. Owners Philip and Sheryl Jones released a very successful initial vintage in 1994 and subsequently expanded their facilities and holdings to produce a number of award-winning wines under the Spencer Hill, Tasman Bay, Latitude 41, and Mariner Vineyards labels. They also provide all the wines for the “Compassion Through Wine” program which donates 100 percent of the profits to a several New Zealand charities. Their Goose Bay Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are made under rabbinic supervision in conjunction with the Royal Wine Company.
Spirits-wise, we thought we’d shake it up a bit. In summer, the humidity and heat can be quite stifling. What the body needs in such climes is a periodic cooling bracer. A martini or a Manhattan is a little too nuanced, a little too sophisticated to get the job done. When the heat has fried the brain, and the humidity has saturated the soul, the body needs an elemental libation that is fairly uncomplicated to mix – potent, but not too strong, slightly sweet, but with a pleasing, tangy bite that reawakens the senses. What is needed is a gimlet.
A simple concoction of white or clear spirit (traditionally gin) and lime juice (traditionally Rose’s Lime Juice), with a history dating back at least to the mid-19th century, the gimlet is a delicious and enduring classic. As the war-scarred Terry Lenox tells Philip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s novel The Long Goodbye, “A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow.”
While we might argue that last point, and the proportions mentioned are far sweeter than modern sensibilities, the tone is exactly right. The gimlet is simple, straightforward, pungent, and remarkably satisfying. Indeed, the gimlet is commonly thought of as “the king of the rail drinks” in the American bar scene because it is so simple to make that even the most timid and unimaginative bartenders are convinced they can do it no discernible harm. Although the exact history is a little uncertain, virtually everyone seems to agree that the British Royal Navy created the drink in the early to mid-19th century.
Great Britain mandated daily rations of lime juice to every sailor in its merchant fleet in an attempt to fight scurvy (a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency). Originally the anti-scorbutic of the British Royal Navy was lemon juice purchased from the Mediterranean, but the English lime growers in the West Indies lobbied strenuously to make the substitution. This is how Brits eventually became known as “limeys.” The other unintended consequence of this political switch was that scurvy outbreaks continued well into the 20th century because limes only contain about one-quarter of the anti-scorbutic properties of lemons (although this was not known at the time). Such is politics. The gimlet is one of those rare exceptions to the general rule that fresh fruit juice must always be used for the cocktail to taste any good. Fresh lime juice is too tart, and adding sugar doesn’t quite cut it right. In this matter, Philip Marlowe is a sound guide: “The bartender set the drink in front of me. With the lime juice it has a sort of pale greenish yellowish misty look. I tasted it. It was both sweet and sharp at the same time.” Exactly so. Here, then, is a “gimlet”:
Stir or shake two ounces of Plymouth Gin (regular London dry gin will work if you can’t find the more traditional stuff) and one-quarter an ounce of Rose’s Lime Juice with cracked ice. As noted above, the original recipe actually called for a sweeter 1-to-1 ratio, there are some modern recipes calling for a 5-to-1 ratio – be guided by your own tastes.
So whatever your ratio, be certain to mix or shake very well so that everything is very cold.
Strain the contents into a prechilled martini glass or into a prechilled old-fashioned or highball glass with ice. If using the martini glass, garnish with a twist of lime and coat the rim with sugar; if serving over ice, garnish with a lime wedge. For a touch of modern sensibility, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Consider a little ambiance by thumbing through a copy of The Long Goodbye. L’Chaim!