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New Orleans lays claim to the Sazerac. San Francisco has dibs on Pisco Punch. And D.C.? Well, we’ve got the Rickey. (Image: BLT Steak)

Beat the heat this month with an ice cold Rickey

New Orleans lays claim to the Sazerac. San Francisco has dibs on Pisco Punch. And D.C.? Well, we’ve got the Rickey.

Back in the late 1800s, Shoomaker's Saloon was the watering hole of choice for the District's politicians and cabinet members. Democratic lobbyist Colonel Joe Rickey used to whet his whistle there each morning, where his penchant was an eye-opening glass of Bourbon. One day, he decided to squeeze in a wedge of lime and top it with soda--and voila, a brand new tipple was born. (Over the years, the recipe has evolved to include either Bourbon or gin, depending on your preference.)

In 2011, thanks to the efforts of the D.C. Craft Bartender's Guild, the City Council deemed the Rickey “Washington, D.C.'s Native Cocktail.” Now, cocktail lovers of the DMV celebrate Rickey Month each July, when we can get our fizzy fix all over town of the drink that bar owner Derek Brown refers to as "air conditioning in a glass.”

The original cocktail--with Bourbon or gin, lime, and soda--is pretty darn refreshing. But maybe your picky palate requires a little something more. Enter the Rickey riff, as bartenders try to improve upon and modernize the drink while still attempting to stay true to the classic. But the question remains: if you stray too far away, is it really a Rickey?

No matter, both the Rickey and the "Rickey" are in the spirit of historical imbibing. At BLT Steak, beverage director James Nelson is serving up a Rickey flight all month, priced at $18 for all three, $16 for one full-sized cocktail and $8 for a tasting portion. Most akin to Colonel Joe’s creation is Whatcha Drinking Rickey, with Bourbon, smoked pineapple syrup and a house-made lemon-lime soda.

"The Rickey is a simple cocktail at its core - in essence, it is a lime flavored beverage,” Nelson says. “However, I think it is always important to stay true to the original, even when adding our own spin and flavors--there is a reason it is a classic cocktail that has stood the test of time.”

You can get the flight all month at BLT Steak, and other Rickeys around town including Jack Rose Dining Saloon and Radiator. Or celebrate at home by whipping up a batch of Rickeys using Nelson’s recipe:

Whatcha Drinking Rickey

Recipe courtesy of James Nelson, Beverage Director, BLT Steak

  • 1 1/2 oz. Bourbon
  • 1/2 oz. Smoked Pineapple Syrup (see Note)
  • 1/2 oz. Lime Juice
  • House-made Lemon Lime Soda (see Note)
  • Slice of grilled pineapple, for garnish
  1. Add the Bourbon and syrup to a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until well chilled. Double strain over fresh ice in a highball glass, top with the soda and garnish with a slice of grilled pineapple.
  2. For the Smoked Pineapple Syrup:
  3. Peel 2 pineapples, remove their cores and cold smoke them (or smoke them on a grill with wood chips) for about 1 hour. Remove, cool and use a rotary juice to juice them. Combine the juice and 1 vanilla bean that's been halved and scraped into a saucepan. Bring it to a boil and reduce by half. Add 1/4 cup agave nectar, stir to combine and remove the vanilla pod. Bottle and store in the refrigerator.
  4. For the Lemon Lime Soda:
  5. Add 1/4 cup lime juice, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 3/4 cup simple syrup and 1 liter of filtered water to a soda siphon and charge with a CO2 cartridge. Place in refrigerator and chill before use.