Finding the right notes: Gin rickey is a dive into jazz-inspiring improv | AspenTimes.com

Finding the right notes: Gin rickey is a dive into jazz-inspiring improv

Samuel Wagner
For the ATW

In honor of the updated Jazz Aspen June Experience and as a way to try something a little new, I decided to work on some improvisation of my own in the drink department.

To start off, I needed a base cocktail that can be easy to adjust. To keep it related to the jazz performances I was seeing (I was luckily able to catch a concert by Wycliffe Gordon), I decided on a gin rickey from The Little Nell. It’s a simple drink popularized in the Jazz Age of the 1920s and ’30s and was a favorite of F. Scott Fitzgerald. (He’s not a musician, I understand, but my knowledge of authors is more extensive than jazz artists.)

If you haven’t had a gin rickey, it’s honestly pretty similar to a gin and tonic. A rickey usually contains the juice of one lime, a few ice cubes, gin and soda water to fill. It adds just a bit of sourness to the herbal notes, but isn’t overwhelmingly tart like a gin fizz may be.

It also works perfectly for improvisation and adaptation, hallmarks of both drinking and performance. Re-creating the drink at home is simple with only a few ingredients. However, a few things around my home can spice it up, such as adding flavored tonic water.

For a final test, on a whim, I tried adding in fresh lemon basil I have growing outside.

It didn’t really affect it much, to be honest. But, to be really adventurous, mixing the drink with a sprig of rosemary could certainly up the herbal content.

Drinkmaking, as with jazz, requires knowledge of the basics as well as being able to break out and try something different every so often. It’s always nice to stick with something you like, but shake it up once in a while and you might be pleasantly surprised.


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