“Wow, I haven't made one of these in a long time,” the cute, raven-haired waitress at Capital Grille confessed as she poured out my Sweet Basil Gin Rickey into a martini glass. I understand why: a Rickey is the Mr. Burns of classic cocktails–none of the Mad Men chic of an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan, no suave factor ala a gin martini, not even the universal appeal of a mojito or daiquiri. This highball drink seems on the safe side of the booze scale, all about the lime, the club soda and your splash of gin–you know you'll have a PR problem when your biggest mainstream exposure was in the Simpsons episode where Larry Burns (as memorably voiced by Rodney Dangerfield) returns to his illegitimate father but interrupts his lime rickey. (Oh, and Larry once saw a blimp–one of the great non-sequitors EVER)
I hadn't seen a Rickey on a bar menu in a while, so of course it'd be at Capital Grille, a South Coast Plaza steakhouse frequented by people who think Brooks Brothers threads belong at Marshall's. But the way the gal prepared that Sweet Basil Gin Rickey suggests this drink is prime for a comeback.
She threw in a lake of lime juice, muddled some basil, and tossed it into a mixer with Bombay Sapphire gin, club soda, and cane sugar syrup, presenting it up. You usually get a lime wedge thrown into the rickey, but the chica put on on the side as a garnish, along with a whole basil leaf. Refreshing, tart, cooling, gin wrestled down to its juniper beauty–this is a limeade for the boozehound set, perfect for reappropriating from the rich crowd. I would've drank another, but I had to negotiate with a crazy Oklahoma oil baron underneath the portrait of John Wayne…okay, maybe not.