I have a bartender confession for you: I don’t think I can handle any more requests for Skinny Margaritas. Every suburban mom or frosted-up dude in bedazzled jeans seems to have their own idea of what’s in this diet monstrosity. Some feel the need to inform me that it’s “just tequila, lime, and Cointreau; no sweet and sour mix” (that’s just called a Margarita), while others seem to think that every bar should stock a simple syrup made from Splenda (spoiler alert: no). Never mind the fact that no matter how much lipstick you slap on that pig, it’s still gonna stink.
Hey, here’s an idea for you: If you’re really that concerned about how many calories are in that cocktail, how’s about you belly up to the bar and order something that is a) actually a drink, b) can be made in pretty much any bar in the world, and c) doesn’t contain a single granule of sugar: the summer classic, the Gin Rickey.
Though the first Rickey was made with America’s national spirit, bourbon, it was America’s original national embarrassment, Prohibition, that forever solidified the drink as a gin cocktail. It would be another ninety years before Bethenny Frankel would humiliate the country again with the Skinnygirl line of products.
Sure, a Rickey can be a tough drink to get down when the three components aren’t perfectly balanced. It’s strong, it’s sour, and it’s not much else. It’s certainly not a balanced cocktail in the traditional sense, yet somehow it just works. And when I’m visiting someplace as hot and balmy as Washington, D.C. in the summer time (the birthplace of the drink, not coincidentally), there is nothing I want more to cool me off. It almost, just almost, lends some credence to Colonel Joe Rickey’s claim that drinks containing sugar “heat the blood.”
Well, at least he didn’t name it a Skinny Collins.
• 2 oz. London dry gin
• ¾ oz. fresh lime juice, plus one lime hull
• Sparkling water
In a chilled Collins glass, combine gin, lime, and spent lime hull. Top with ice and fill with sparkling water.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common, the acclaimed gastropub at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. He is also author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.
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