Muddle up some fun with an old-fashioned Lime Rickey, a classic vintage mocktail that’s as refreshing today as it was in its soda fountain days.
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Maybe you grew up sitting with your sweetheart at the counter of the local soda fountain or maybe you’ve visited one of the revitalized retro shops popping up around the U.S.
Even if you’ve only seen those counters full of shakes and sodas in the movies, though, there’s no denying the popularity of a big ol’ glass of bubbly, fizzy something-or-other, and this Lime Rickey recipe is a throwback to the glory days of jukeboxes, chocolate malts, and soda jerks.
The Lime Rickey is a non-alcoholic descendant of the “rickey” which dates back all the way to the 1800s. Colonel Joe Rickey, a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., was known for ordering a whiskey-based cocktail with lemon and fizzy water that inspired what we know today as the Lime Rickey soda.
Gin eventually won out over the rye-based spirit (changing the name of the cocktail to the “gin rickey”), and the lime, valued over its yellow cousin for a more sophisticated flavor, kicked lemons out of the glass as well.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF LIME JUICE?
In addition to its unique flavor, limes are high in Vitamin C, according to Medical News Today and the USDA. Vitamin C is often touted for its infection- and cold-fighting properties, as well as skin benefits. Other benefits may include aiding in digestion thanks to its high acid content.
Limes are naturally more acidic than lemons (which is why I like to use them in marinades for things like Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken), so switching out the lemon in the original Rickey makes for a cocktail (or mocktail) with a little more zip.
The aroma of the lime is also a little more interesting than a lemon, and the result is a more complex, flavorful drink that delights the palate even without the addition of alcohol. There’s a reason the non-alcoholic Lime Rickey became really popular during Prohibition!
If you’ve never had a Lime Rickey drink (sometimes called lime ricki), you can think of it as basically a fizzy, less sweet version of a limeade.
HOW DO YOU MAKE A LIMEADE?
Limeade is made with lime juice, sugar, and (still) water. To make a limeade, you simply use your favorite lemonade recipe and replace the lemon juice with lime juice.
I like Martha Stewart’s Limeade recipe for a good sweet/tart balance.
This Lime Rickey recipe is so much more than a carbonated limeade, though. I use the word “artisan” to describe it because we’re taking the care to use fresh limes and muddling them with sugar to create something much brighter and fresher than your average bottled lime juice or corn-syrup sweetened limeade. (It’s also why I’m not showing you how to make a Lime Rickey with Sprite.)
WHAT IS IN A LIME RICKEY?
The original, soda fountain Lime Rickey ingredients are a mix of lime juice, sweetened with sugar or simple syrup, and soda water.
It’s a simple formula but a really refreshing drink!
HOW DO YOU MAKE A LIME RICKEY?
To make a Lime Rickey, you combine the base ingredients of lime juice and sugar (or syrup), mix well, then stir in soda water. The glass is usually garnished with a lime wedge or twist.
My recipe starts with dropping a fresh quartered lime and some sugar into my cocktail shaker, then it’s time to muddle!
If you don’t make cocktails or mocktails often, this concept may be unfamiliar to you, but it’s a really critical – sometimes delicate – step in perfecting your drink-making skills.
The process involves crushing or “muddling” ingredients in the bottom of your glass or shaker to help them release their essential oils and up the fragrance of your beverage.
If you’re making something with fresh herbs, this requires a light hand – just enough to bruise the leaves and bring the oils to the surface. If you’ve ever had a bitter mojito, it’s because someone over-muddled their mint.
When we’re dealing with limes, though, you really want to pulverize them since we’re trying to extract both the oils from the skin AND the juice from the pulp. Adding the sugar to the muddling process provides some gritty texture that helps it all break down more easily, but it’s also the only way to dissolve the sugar before adding your liquids. We don’t want the sugar crystals floating on the bottom of our carefully crafted drink!
As the sugar dissolves, it will also get incorporated into this concentrated lime mixture and melt seamlessly into your drink so every sip is similarly sweet.
The next step is adding fresh lime juice, and I don’t suggest substituting bottled here unless you have a store that squeezes it fresh; the best option is squeezing your own. You can expect about 2 tablespoons (1 oz.) of juice from an average lime, though obviously the size and juicy factor vary, so plan on needing two limes just for the juice here. That should give you plenty for the juice itself, plus a little extra for garnish. Don’t forget the pro-tip of slicing off the ends off your limes before you slice and twist!
Oh, and if you have leftover limes, you can always make some Chewy Coconut Lime Sugar Cookies!
Once everything’s stirred together, you’ll strain it before pouring it over your ice-filled glass, then top it off with seltzer or soda water. Club soda has a slightly different, mineral-y flavor, so I suggest using a simple, unflavored carbonated water like Topo Chico or Schweppes.
It’s worth noting not everyone’s a purist when it comes to this mocktail, of course, and there are lots of variations that add fruity flavor and creative color to it. There’s a grape Lime Rickey recipe (also called an Arctic Circle Lime Rickey after its namesake burger and shakes chain in Utah) that uses grape flavored syrup instead of sugar, as well as vanilla, strawberry, and raspberry Lime Rickey options that typically use artificially flavored syrup.
If I’m switching up this recipe at all, though, I usually opt for a Cherry Lime Rickey, which is a sophisticated twist on the popular cherry limeade.
HOW DO YOU MAKE A CHERRY LIME RICKEY?
You can make a Cherry Lime Rickey by adding about 2 tablespoons of Torani’s or Fox’s cherry syrup per serving.
You can also muddle 6 fresh pitted cherries with the limes, which is what I prefer to preserve the artisan quality I’m after in this drink.
This is a great non-boozy alternative for a cocktail party or just a bright, cool beverage to enjoy on a hot afternoon while reminiscing about the glory days of the soda fountain.
If you close your eyes, you can almost hear the jukebox playing.
RECIPE NOTES FOR LIME RICKEY:
Choose your weapons – This is an original artisan mocktail, which means we’re taking the time to craft a special beverage with fresh ingredients, rather than just mixing together some pre-made items.
The muddling is important, as I’ve already mentioned, so make sure you use a cocktail shaker or tall glass to leave plenty of room for this step. If you go the glass route, be sure the walls are thick enough so you don’t risk breaking it.
No barware, no problem – No special tools are needed to mix up this up, so don’t feel like you have to go out and buy a bunch of stuff before you can enjoy this drink.
If you don’t have a muddler, simply use a wooden spoon, and a small mesh strainer works just fine in place of the bar strainer or cocktail shaker.
Spike it – Want to liven up the party a bit and make this Lime Rickey recipe alcoholic ?
Transform it into the original Gin Rickey by simply adding 2 ounces of gin to the muddled limes when you mix in the lime juice. Shake vigorously, then proceed with the recipe.
- 1 Lime Cut Into Wedges
- 3 Tablespoons Sugar
- 1 1/2 Ounce Fresh Lime Juice
- 8 Ounce Soda Water
- In a cocktail shaker, muddle all the lime wedges with sugar, until the lime wedges release their juices, and sugar and lime juice become syrupy.
- Fill the cocktail shaker with ice, add lime juice, and shake vigorously.
- Strain into an ice-filled highball glass, top with soda water, and stir. Garnish with a lime wedge or a lime twist.
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