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The Tidal Basin on a recent, sultry summer evening.
Right then. I was intending to write about brunch drinks again this week (sorry, Steve), but then it finally happened: It got hot. Truly hot. That special, sultry kind of beautiful Southern misery where thick, velvety curtains of heat and humidity enfold the intense green and blue scenery and blur the edges of the monuments against the backdrop. The whole world in soft focus.
Men and women in once-pressed suits, panting past stately buildings in the mid-day glare, heavy steps, glistening foreheads; polite nods, few words; perhaps a brief stop in the shade — just for a moment — to cool down. The whole world in a sort of slight slow-motion. It is, to my mind, oddly beautiful. Here is an entire city tempted to cry out in impotent frustration at the punishing sun, yet all firmly resolved to sweat politely, to give one another just an extra moment of patience to catch up — we all know: It’s just hot. Having myself been reared in more Northerly climes, I speculate whether this mutually borne indignity is, in fact, responsible for the very mindfully gentle manners and social graces with which the Old South is romantically associated. But mercy, it is so awfully inconsiderate of me to subject you to this kind of talk before you’ve had a proper drink. Good Lawd, where are my manners!
To make a Rickey, squeeze 1/2 a lime into a tall, empty glass (about 1/2 oz of juice) and drop in the lime hull. Add 2 oz of bourbon, then fill the glass with ice. Top with seltzer.
It always kind of bugs me that no one ever says how much seltzer, just “top/fill with seltzer” so: Double the volume of the base (3.5 oz, in this case) or fill to the top of the glass, whichever comes first. You can always add more if you’d like, and, for God sake, do it by eye.
The Rickey is one of the very few drinks in the classic-American pantheon which has a fairly undisputed origin story, and it belongs to Washington, D.C. — in point of fact, a now defunct watering hole called Shoomaker’s. It seems on one of our hot summer days during 1883, one Col. Joe Rickey, a Missourian lobbyist, had the good barman add some lime juice to his usual morning fix-up (yeah — it was a different time — I am guessing a Wednesday).
The drink caught quickly but soon was eclipsed in popularity by a version with gin (guess what they call it?) Well, go ahead and try it if you want to. I’d steer clear of the London Drys unless you like drinking paint stripper. Some days, I can sort of see why gin got popular in this drink, but it turns it to over-exuberance in my mind — makes it juvenile. With bourbon it’s downright genteel. Try it both ways. You’ll see my point.
Now, I know this is become a long column, but one last thing: Adding sugar is en vogue at many establishments around these parts. Fie. The acid bite of the lime and slight bitterness from the hull are dulled just — just! — enough by the wooden wash and mellow heat of any half-decent bourbon, but to interfere with this relationship any other way voids the warranty. It’s that peculiar “snap” in each sip that reminds the drinker he is sipping something cold, assertive, and intentional. This is a drink made to refresh the stifled, invigorate the weary — not lubricate the frat boys at The Tombs.
Enjoy the heat. Drink well.

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