As classic cocktails go, The Gimlet has one of the more interesting origin stories, and much like several iconic cocktails, its roots lie in military history and was created by a doctor, rather than a bartender.
In the 19th century, when the British Navy was plagued with scurvy - a brutal, painful and sometimes deadly disease brought about by vitamin C deficiency - and as the benefits of citrus juice as an antidote became broadly known, Officers & sailors were administered a daily ration of lime juice to ward off the disease.
The most widely accepted origin story states that naval doctor Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Desmond Gimlette, cited as the namesake of the drink, suggested combining the prescribed lime juice with an Officer’s daily ration of gin, in order to mask the bitter taste and allow the medication go down a little easier. A combination that resulted in the first iteration of the cocktail we know and love today. However, there is another etymological story in circulation that is also considered credible; that the concoction was named after the hand tool that was used to bore into barrels of spirits on Navy ships - a gimlet.
While the Gimlet was being drunk by the Naval Officers, the sailors themselves had daily rations of rum as opposed to gin - so mixed this with their lime juice, creating a blend known as Grog & a recipe very similar to a Daiquiri. The drink was so popular and consumption was so prolific, that sailors soon became known as “limeys”.
Although nowadays, bartenders tend to make use of whatever lime juice is available when making a Gimlet, and it is delicious when made with freshly squeezed; the official Gimlet mixer is Rose’s Lime Cordial. This is because it was initially the most accessible fruit preserve (the world’s first fruit concentrate), and in 1867 a law was passed stating that all Naval vessels should serve the concentrate as the daily ration to the crews, sealing Rose’s place in Gimlet, and drinks, history.