How to Make a Classic Gin Rickey (And Why You Should)

highball glass with limes

Summer time around here typically means one cocktail above all else – the beloved gin and tonic. But this year, my husband (finally) really fell in love with gin, and when he ran out (read: drank all) of my fancy tonic water while I was away visiting family, he tried substituting seltzer water instead.

He didn’t know it then, but what he was drinking is also known as a Gin Rickey. This simple combination of gin, half a lime’s juice, and carbonated water is as easy-going and fresh as it gets. Pretty soon, my husband told me he actually enjoyed his gin more this way, and after a bit of coaxing, I’m finally swapping out my G&T for a Rickey now and then too!

cocktail in highball glass with mint and lime

Gin + lime + carbonated water

Traditionally, a Rickey is the ultra-refreshing combination of freshly squeezed lime juice, carbonated water and bourbon. Eventually some smart cat thought to try it with gin, and the rest is history. Both versions are delicious, by the way. What really sets a Gin Rickey apart from other citrusy highballs like a Collins is the lack of sugar. No simple syrup or liqueurs here.

Why you should drink more Gin Rickeys this summer

A Gin Rickey is pretty much a “gin and soda” with a solid dose of lime juice. I guess that may have been why I was hesitant to embrace it at first, but there are three solid reasons I think Gin Rickeys should be on any cocktail lover’s top summer drink list:

  1. They’re incredibly refreshing. You’re hydrating and getting a dose of vitamin C while enjoying a cocktail. Score!

  2. They’re low cal / carb. Ok, so not everyone cares about this stuff, but let’s be real. Most of us could use a lower calorie cocktail option now and then (especially folks like myself who consume alcohol for a living. Let me just say that my swimsuit is feeling a bit snug these days, after all those poolside pina coladas).

  3. MOST IMPORTANT: You get to really taste your gin! See, unlike a typical vodka soda, this cocktail is all about taste. You can enjoy even some of the more subtle flavors in your gin of choice, and round things out with a splash of citrus. What’s not to love?

tall clear bubbly cocktail

How to make a classic Gin Rickey

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 oz gin of choice (use 1 1/2 oz if you’re looking for the lowest calorie option)

  • Juice of ½ a lime

  • 4-6 oz carbonated water (go with a mineral water for more flavor than a seltzer)

Instructions:

Fill a tall glass with ice. Seriously, fill it all the way, as pictured below. The more ice, the quicker the chill down and the less dilution overall. Using less ice will just give you a not-that-cold, watered down tasting drink. Pour the gin and lime juice over the ice and give it a stir. Top with your carbonated water of choice, stir gently, and enjoy! Garnish with a lime wheel and mint or other herbs that compliment your gin of choice, if desired.

highball glass filled to the top with ice cubes

 STEP ONE: Fill a tall glass with ice.

squeezing lime juice over ice in a tall glass

 STEP TWO: Add gin and lime juice.

pouring seltzer into highball glass with gin and lime juice

STEP THREE: Top with carbonated water. You can add a garnish or just enjoy this classic cocktail as is! Want some garnish ideas? Check out my Art of the Cocktail Garnish guide.

How many calories are in a Gin Rickey?

It depends on how much gin you use. It’s 114 calories for a 1 1/2 ounce pour or 146 calories for a full 2 ounce pour. Either way you make it, it’s only 1 gram of carbs, which is from the lime juice.

Is a Gin Rickey “healthier” than a Gin and Tonic?

Well, that’s a tough question. Can a cocktail ever really be healthy? But if what you really want to know is how they compare nutritionally outside of the booze, a Gin Rickey is significantly lighter. Tonic water contains sugar, and if you’re buying the standard soda brands at the grocery store, it has A LOT of it. Like 23 grams per 8 oz serving. It also has about 100 calories per serving and is most often made with corn syrup, which isn’t on anyone’s “healthy” list of foods. This isn’t to say that the Gin and Tonic is not an AMAZING cocktail that deserves to be enjoyed now and then. But if you’re looking for a lighter option, the Gin Rickey is the way to go. If mixing up a G&T instead, opt for quality tonic waters from brands like Fever-Tree or Q Drinks. They use high quality ingredients, taste far superior to supermarket brands, and are often much lower sugar and calorie.

Variations on the classic recipe

If you want to spice things up a bit, add a garnish of fresh herbs or fruit – or even muddle those botanicals with the gin and lime juice. If you opt to muddle, you’ll want to do it in a cocktail shaker. After muddling, add ice, shake until chilled, then strain the liquid into your glass filled with ice (see step 1). This way you won’t end up with a mess of muddled goop in the bottom of the glass. Keep in mind that any add-ins will change the calorie and carb count on this drink, but a few raspberries, slices of peach, or some fresh cherries will not set your diet back nearly as much as syrups or liqueurs can.

Classic Gin Rickey

This zero sugar, ultra-refreshing classic gin cocktail is as easy as ice, lime juice, gin, and soda water!
Prep Time5 mins
Total Time5 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: gin, lime juice, low calorie, low carb, sparkling water
Servings: 1 cocktail
Calories: 114kcal
Author: Amy Traynor

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 – 2 oz gin of your choice
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 4-6 oz carbonated water use mineral water or flavored seltzer waters for more flavor!

Instructions

  • Fill a tall glass with ice. Don't skimp, fill it all the way!
  • Pour the gin and lime juice over the ice and give it a stir.
  • Top with your carbonated water of choice, stir gently, and enjoy!
  • Garnish with a lime wheel and mint or other herbs that compliment your gin of choice, if desired.

Notes

Calorie and Carbohydrate Information:
1 1/2 oz gin, 1/2 oz lime juice, carbonated water = 114 calories, 1 grams carbs
2 oz gin, 1/2 oz lime juice, carbonated water = 146 calories, 1 grams carbs
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