Friday, June 1, 2012

Who Is This Rickey Guy The Gin Rickey Is Named After

The other evening a request was made of me. My friend Topper came by the bar the other night and we got to talking about Baseball and drinks. The subject of a Gin Rickey came up. Topper asked me to do a blog post on how a Gin Rickey came to be. So it got me to wondering: Who is the Gin Rickey named after.

Could it be named after the man who referred to himself as "The Best of All-Time": Rickey Henderson? No but that would be cool. Could it be the man who went against the unwritten rules prohibiting African Americans from playing in the Major Leagues by signing Jackie Robinson to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers: Branch Rickey? Again, no. It would be ironic to name a drink after Branch Rickey since he was a very conservative teetotaller. For those of you who don't know what a teetotaller is, its a person who abstains completely from alcoholic beverages. See the irony?


Ok, now that I linked this post to Baseball (just for you Topper), here we go with the real person the drink is named after.

According to his obituary printed in the New York Times on April 24, 1903, Colonel Joseph K. Rickey (1842-1903) was a veteran of the Confederate Army during the US Civil War. After the war, he became involved in the stock market then in Missouri state politics and later national politics as a lobbyist. It was in Washington DC that Colonel Joe Rickey would be immortalized.

According to Ted Haigh, aka Dr. Cocktail in his article Rediscovering Vintage Cocktails: The Man Behind the Gin Rickey from Imbibe Magazine's May/June 2007 issue:
He (Rickey) was a regular at a marble palace frequented by political operatives that habitués called Shoo’s, one building up from the National Theatre in Washington. Shoomaker’s was the enterprise of William Shoomaker, who had begun his professional life as a Civil War sutler. The saloon had been thriving there since before the Mexican-American War. All evidence suggests that Rickey himself first conceived his signature drink in the typically hot 1883 summer campaign season. The bartender, George Williamson, prepared it to the colonel’s instructions, and the first one was actually a rye Rickey made with Shoomaker’s own house-label whiskey. Though Colonel Joe remained faithful to his original concoction, in short order gin would eclipse the rye (and inspire a whole family of drinks called Rickeys).
Rickey would eventually purchase Shoomaker's in 1896. The building would continue to serve Rickey's famous self named drink until it closed in 1916. The building would be later torn down. Rickey relocated to New York City and was a fixture at most hotels and bars along Broadway living the life. On April 23, 1903, Rickey was found dead in his home on West 25th Street. Rumors circulated that Rickey had been poisoned. While his family denied the rumors concerning his passing, the coroner confirmed that not only was Rickey poisoned but that he had committed suicide by ingesting Carbolic Acid mixed with some whiskey. The acid and a "fatty heart" were the reasons for his passing away leaving behind a legacy of a series of cocktails bearing his name none more famous than the Gin Rickey.

Speaking of the Gin Rickey, here is the recipe for his namesake:
The Gin Rickey
1.5 oz. Gin
.5 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
Soda water
Lime wedge

Pour gin and lime juice into a highball glass over ice cubes. Fill with soda water and stir. Add the wedge of lime and serve.

The drink itself is a light and refreshing that is suitable for any season but its texture is mainly associated with the summer. I especially prefer it with Hendrick's Gin since I feel that it's citrus notes matches up with the fresh lime and the soda water. Gives a nice little kick on the tongue. so order one from your friendly neighborhood bartender or make one for yourself.

A bit of trivia, according to the RickeyFamily.org website both Joe Rickey and Branch Rickey seem to be related. In what capacity I don't specifically know. I'll keep digging around to find out.

Until Then, Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Ted Haigh's aka Dr. Cocktail article Rediscovering Vintage Cocktails: The Man Behind the Gin Rickey from Imbibe Magazine's May/June 2007 issue
- Click Here to access Colonel Joe Rickey's obituary from the New York Times April 24, 1903
- Click Here to access the blogpost "Joe Rickey" A Man and a Drink from the YesterYear Once More blogpage
- Click Here to access an image of what Shoomaker's looked like approximately in 1917 from Shorpy.com
- Click Here to access the article Rickey Roots and Revels dated February 1992 from the Rickeyfamily.org website