When I came across this piece in The New York Times on how to make your own lime cordial as a means to creating a perfect gimlet, my mouth puckered and my breathing slowed and I can’t tell you for sure but I’d bet my pupils dilated. I get very excited about the idea of making something from scratch that is better or more authentic than a store-bought version I’d never considered trumping. It’s why making ricotta, mayonnaise and mustard at home was such a revelation for me. But bringing gin into the mix and the promise of a true gimlet–the likes of which I’ve never had before and may never be able to order at an establishment, no matter how fine–had me clearing time in my week to make real lime cordial. Immediately.
It’s a three day process that takes very little effort, though it seems I missed out on the hardest part. First, I bought more limes than I ever have before, washed and scrubbed them meticulously (the idea of “conventional” (read: sprayed) lime rinds steeping for days in something you’re going to drink should drive you to do the same), after which I had to finish another task…so I asked James if he could please, well, just peel these limes with a vegetable peeler like the article called for. The author insisted that this was simpler than using a microplane, and resulted in better flavour since a little of the bitterness of the peel was needed, and you do remove a veil of pith no matter how carefully you peel away. Turns out a peeler making its way down small, round limes is a recipe for mishap. There was some cursing (I’m sure my name was cited) and a loud trip to the bathroom to retrieve a bandage, on which James passed me working at my desk and asked sharply, rhetorically, “Have you ever peeled small, round limes with a vegetable peeler??” He’d already gone to the trouble of juicing them, the next step in the process, and you can imagine how that went after he’d nicked himself. It’s too bad he doesn’t like gin drinks as much as me or this might have been all worth it to him…
At any rate, the cordial sits in the fridge for a day, lime peels, juice and sugar combined, after which it’s strained and and returns to the cold to cure and mellow another day. I stole a taste when I was straining it and I was already so excited about the flavour. It was like the most delicious, concentrated limeaid. After the full two days, it was everything the creator said it would be. It was pure, perfect and possibly the best lime cordial I will ever have–except maybe for my next batch, which will include the optional ginger that the author uses.
As for the best gimlet, I defer again to the piece which recommends starting with gin and adding cordial to taste. My preference is 3 ounces of gin, 2 tablespoons of lime cordial, 1 large wedge of lime squeezed in. By the way, I cut the original recipe below because I didn’t think I needed a litre of lime cordial. So now I can’t share any of mine with you. I can’t. There’s just not enough for both of us, considering I have to force some on James too, so that he falls in love with it and will maybe peel 18 limes for the next batch. At which point I will have a whole litre and can invite you over for the best gimlet you’ve never had.
YS note: Raw, since there are recipes that call for cooking the lime syrup too. I have not tried that way, nor did I include ginger in my only attempt at this recipe so far. I thought the raw, lime-only cordial I ended up with was perfection, but I will be using ginger next time. I cut the recipe and you can too, but go for the full litre so you won’t be as possessive about your lime cordial as I’ve become. It’s mine, all mine…
18 limes, room temperature, very ripe, well puffed and heavy
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 lb fresh ginger (optional)
Wash limes in a sinkful of warm water, scrubbing with your hands or a vegetable brush, and let them dry them on a dish towel. Peel them with a vegetable peeler, removing as little of the underlying white pith as possible. To begin each, it’s helpful to cut the polar ends off, where the stem attaches and opposite. This should produce about 140 grams of peels.
Cut limes in half and juice them. This should produce about 2 1/2 cups of juice.
In a non-reactive, coverable container, add sugar to juice and stir until fully dissolved, 3 to 5 minutes. Crush peels up in handfuls to release the oils as you add them into the juice mix. Stir a bit to initiate extraction of the oils. (If you’re making a ginger version, wash the ginger, then shred it in a blender or food processor (no need to peel it), employing some of the lime juice to allow it to liquefy, and add it into the lime mixture, stirring well.) Cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. When ready, strain the cordial off from the peels in a fine mesh strainer or chinoise. Funnel cordial into covered container or cappable bottle and return to refrigerator for another day, to cure, before using.