In the genre of crime fiction, there is perhaps no greater author than Raymond Chandler, and no better protagonist than his Philip Marlowe, who featured in nine Chandler novels and five short stories. Chandler discovered the Gimlet cocktail during a return trip from England in 1952, deciding to work the drink into his novels. In the 1953 novel, The Long Goodbye, Chandler immortalizes the Gimlet in print, simultaneously using it to introduce the detective’s love interest (image: Bogey and Bacall in Hollywood's version of Chandler's The Big Sleep).
The cocktail’s first mention comes as Marlowe befriends a drunken playboy, Terry Lennox, who defines the “real gimlet” as “half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else.” Lennox referenced his ideal recipe in disgust at the incapacity of their watering hole, Victor’s Bar, to stray from what it called a gimlet: “just some lime or lemon juice and gin with a dash of sugar and bitters.”
In later pages, Marlowe returns to Victor’s precisely for a Gimlet that Lennox had asked he have for him. To the private eye’s surprise, the barman had overheard Lennox’s rant and bought a bottle of Rose’s Lime Juice. To the dick’s pleasure, a beautiful, mysterious woman sat alone at the bar “with a pale greenish-colored drink in front of her and smoking a cigarette in a long jade holder.” The woman, dressed in black with “the reddest fingernails I had ever seen” opened the conversation by referring to the fact that Marlowe had just ordered the same thing she was drinking, teaching Marlowe that the drink was of English origin.
The two eventually slip into a more private booth where, over several more Gimlets, Marlowe learns who she is - Linda Loring, the sister-in-law of his drunken, and disappeared, friend, Terry Lennox. A tense conversation ensues, ending with Mrs. Loring, “slid(ing) away into the traffic along the Strip” in her chauffeured Cadillac.
The encounter marked the first of several throughout The Long Goodbye and subsequent Chandler novels. Towards the end of the 1953 classic, Marlowe finds himself in bed with the now Ms. Loring, one of only two women Chandler had allowed his hero to sleep with. Loring toys with the idea of marrying Marlowe figuring “It wouldn’t last six months”. In that particular novel, the idea remained just that as Loring leaves Marlowe the next morning and the book soon comes to a close.
Loring reappears briefly at the end of Chandler’s next novel, Playback, reestablishing contact with Marlowe only to return in the 1959 unfinished work, Poodle Springs, as Marlowe’s wife. Alas, we’ll never know how Chandler intended to end the story of the star-crossed lovers as he died while writing the book (which was eventually finished in 1989 by another author). But as you sip your Warner Edwards Elderflower cocktail, you’ll always know how it began: over a Gimlet.
- 50ml Elderflower Infused Gin
- 20ml lemon juice
- 25ml elderflower cordial
Method: Shake the ingredients in a cocktail shaker, over ice, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a mint leaf or a twist of lemon.