Gimlet – Part 2: Lime Juice, Seafaring & Rose’s Lime Juice

Gimlet - Titelbild.

After we have dealt with the problem of preserving lime juice in the first part, it is time to look at Rose’s Lime Juice. For some, it is a mandatory ingredient of a Gimlet. When did it originate? Is it still produced today as it was shortly after the patent was granted in 1868?


As we have seen, lime juice was extremely important to the British. In 1795, the British Admiralty issued an order that, in order to prevent scurvy, a daily ration of citrus juice was to be distributed on the ships of the navy. In 1844, the Merchant Seamen’s Act made this compulsory on merchant navy ships as well. Citrus juice was to be carried on all overseas voyages and distributed daily at the latest when no fresh provisions had been issued for more than 10 days. However, ship owners often did not comply with these requirements, and so the regulations were tightened up by the Merchant Shipping Act of 1867. As a result, the juice stocks of incoming and outgoing ships were officially inspected by the “Inspector of Lime Juice”. For political reasons, limes from the British West Indies were preferred to European lemons in Britain; from a medical point of view, it would have been better to use lemons because they contain more vitamin C than limes; as a result of this decision, there were again cases of scurvy on British ships in the late 19th century. By the time of the First World War at the latest, the crews of British ships were therefore referred to as lime-juicers or limeys by the sailors of other nations. This term became colloquial and eventually all Brits were referred to as such. [10-698] [17] [22-52]

Rose’s Lime Juice

After this general overview, which gave us a good understanding of the types of preservation used for lime juice and their possible shortcomings, it’s time to move on to Roses Lime Juice, which some say is the only way to make a Gimlet.

Rose's Lime Juice - Advertisement from 1886.
Rose’s Lime Juice – Advertisement from 1886. [20-99] [24]

What does the official company chronicle tell us about the company’s past? Let’s let them have their say: “Rose’s was founded in the Scottish port of Leith by Lauchlan Rose, born in 1829, who abandoned the family business of shipbuilding to become a trader in grain and flor before establishing L. Rose & Company in 1865 as ‘Lime and Lemon Merchant’. It was very much a maritime business, since it had been customary for years for all British ships to carry a supply of lime or lemon juice on all but the shortest voyages as a preservative against scurvy; indeed in 1867 it was made compulsory by the Merchant Shipping Act – hence the nickname for British sailors, particularly in America, of Limeys. Although it was not known that lack of Vitamin C caused scurvy, a rampant shipboard disease for centuries, it had been found that it did not occur on ships supplied with lime or lemon juice. Lime was preferred to lemon because it contains hardly any sugar, whereas the sugar in lemon led to fermentation and hence spoilage unless it were preserved when absolutely fresh. The juices were supplied unsweetened, and fortified by 15% of rum as preservative; this was then the normal method of preserving fruit juices, with the result that there was no such thing as a non-alcoholic fruit drink available to the consumer. Lauchlan Rose saw this as an additional market and patented a process for preventing fermentation by adding to the juice very small quantities of sulphur dioxide, obtained by passing the gas from burning sulphur through water – an adaption of an existing method of preserving light wines by burning sulphur candles in the casks. Lime Juice Cordial, ‘preserved by an entirely new process, entirely from alcohol’, was a practical proposition, and a tall bottle, heavily embossed with an attractive design of lime leaves and fruit, with a trade mark of a lime branch, still use today, was registered. … From its beginnings the company had either imported lime juice from the West Indies or bought it through brokers in London. In 1895 however it purchased the Bath estate near Roseau, the principal town of Dominica in the Windward Islands; its crop of 10,000 barrels of fruit each year was soon doubled by better cultivation, and other estates at Soufriere and St Aroment were acquired. The great bulk of the crop was destined for the manufacture of citric acid, a relatively small quantity being exported as green fruit to the USA and Canada or as juice to the United Kingdom.[20-98] [20-100]

Plantations were also acquired in Ghana. “In 1924 Charles Rose retired and Lauchlan Rose became general manager, to face a decade of difficulties. Bottled lime juice was having to compete with the rising popularity of other fruit squashes; modernisation plans were halted by the onset of the depression; the now loss-making plantation business in Dominica was hit by a disease of the trees and by two hurricanes, in 1928 and 1930; the Admirality switched from lime juice to synthetic ascorbic acid. In short, everything seemed to have gone wrong, and it was a long haul back to prosperity. But it was achieved by the mid-1930s, partly owing to the introduction of lime marmelade, and the popularity of gin and lime which helped to make lime juice an all-the-year round drink. Lime juice, too, was demonstrated by research to be good at eliminating ‘hangovers’ – whence the light-hearted advertising campaign featuring Gerald and Hawkins, which enjoyed a long run well into the post-war period.[20-101]

In 1957, the company was finally taken over by Schweppes. Lauchlan Rose was a member of the Schweppes board for another five years, retiring in 1969. [20-101]

What interesting things do other sources tell us about Laughlan Rose, his company and his product?

We learn that as early as the late 1850s Lauchlan Rose set up a business as a ship’s chandler supplying ship’s provisions. In 1857 he was advertising West Indian lime juice and Messina lemon juice of fine quality, which he delivered in pipes and hogsheads from his shop at 23 Commercial Place. So he was already in the business before his patent was granted in December 1867. [21-Rose’s Lime Juice]

Richard Edwards New York’s Great Industries. 1884, page 229.
Richard Edwards New York’s Great Industries. 1884, page 229.[23-229]

His lime juice seems to have become a widely known product quite quickly, for in 1884 it is written: “About sixteen years ago Mr. L. Rose discovered a process for preserving lime-juice without alcohol so as to retain the flavor and valuable medicinal properties of the lime-fruit, an advantage possessed by no other brand known to commerce. This lime-juice was first introduced into the United States by Wm. Fleming & Co. in 1868, and is now known by the trade generally as the only genuine and standard brand in the market.[23-229]

Lauchlan Rose received patent No. 3499 in December 1867, “for an improved mode of preserving vegetable juices“, with which a storable, alcohol-free anti-scorbutic could be produced. [22-52]

The Food Journal. 1. May 1871, page 62.
The Food Journal. 1. May 1871, page 62. [14-62]

Lauchlan Rose not only produced lime juice, but also a lime juice syrup and a lime juice champagne: “Firstly, there was the pure lime juice, which … was found to be excellent in every respect; and secondly, there were two preparations of the juice in more popular forms, and ready for use. They were called respectively “lime juice cordial,” and “lime juice champagne.” The former was a syrup containing a notable quantity of lime juice, and the latter was an effervescing preparation of the same ingredients, which was really an admirable imitation of champagne minus the alcohol, and plus the important anti-scorbutic properties of limes. Both of these preparations would form excellent and wholesome summer beverages.[14-62]

Every Saturday. 1. July 1871, page 15.
Every Saturday. 1. July 1871, page 15. [16]

As an advertisement from 1871 proves, not only Lauchlan Rose, but also other manufacturers such as John Gillon & Co.’s offered both Lime-Juice and Lime-Juice Cordial and Lime-Juice Champagne. [15-252] [15-253] [15-254] [16]

The chemist and druggist. London, 14. November 1868, page 708-709.
The chemist and druggist. London, 14. November 1868, page 708-709. [18-708] [18-709]

The importance of the conservation method developed by Lauchlan Rose is confirmed by a report from 1868: “The importance of these juices in the dietary scale of our merchant service has been recently very prominently brought, into notice by legislation in the ” Amended Merchant Shipping Act,” by which a thorough supervision is made by the Board of Trade over this important article of ship stores. … The regulations of the Board of Trade, therefore, in respect of these juices, had two objects in view — first, to secure a perfectly pure juice, which is attained by inspection of their officers appointed for this purpose at the various shipping ports, whose duty it is to analyse all juice offered for ship stores, after it has been placed in a bonded warehouse, and give certificate that such juice has been found “fit and proper” for ship stores or otherwise, as the case may be; second, after such inspection and passing, the preserving of the juice is provided for by adding 15 per cent, proof rum or brandy, and the juice thus fortified is bottled and packed in cases ready for shipment. The expense attending these two processes, as may well be imagined, is considerable, certainly not much less than the first cost of the juice; and it only remains a question whether this expense, falling as it does entirely on the shipowner, cannot be reduced, having a due regard to the object of this legislation. The difficulty of keeping these juices in a good state of preservation appears to have been fully discussed at the late Pharmaceutical Conference held at Norwich, on which occasion a very able paper was read by Mr.W.W. Stoddart, F. G.S., on ” Lemon Juice and its Decomposition.” One proposal to effect preservation being the old one of excluding the air from the juice by heating, and another by using chloroform as the preserving agent to the extent of 25 per cent., and which is afterwards to be evaporated, when the juice is required for use. Both these processes, however, must necessarily be very limited in their application ; the first requiring the same operation to be performed every time the juice was exposed to the air, indeed, every time a bottle or jar was broken on, however small a quantity was needed ; and the other obvioiisly impracticable, except on a very limited scale, and that questionably with profit. It appears, however, a most important process has been devised by Messrs. L. Rose &. Co., lime and lemon-juice merchants, Leith, which is said to completely solve this problem of the preservation of these juices, and which they have employed with great success for some time past. This process, which is undoubtedly of great commercial value, was patented by them in December of last year, but for some time previous to this date they had assured themselves of its thorough efficiency in their extensive trade in these juices. The process, according to their patent specification, is undoubtedly simple, and the expense at the same time merely nominal, being the mixture with the juice of an extremely small quantity of sulphuroris acid, its sulphites or bi-sulphites, in no case exceeding one to two per cent, of the acid, which is allowed to remain in the juice for a certain period, until it has thoroughly acted on the innumerable seeds or fungus with which these juices are so fully charged, the juice being afterwards partially exposed, so that any excess of acid is thus thrown off. So potent has this preserving agent been found by them, that for the purposes of their home trade, amongst chemists, druggists, etc., a single drop or so of pure acid has been found amply sufficient for the preservation of these juices throughout the season for all dispensing purposes, the juice in no case losing its fine flavour or aroma, and being entirely devoid of that objectionable mouldy taste, of which all unpreserved juice necessarily partakes. The valuable medicinal properties of this preserving agent is certainly a great recommendation in its favour, and there can bo no question, both as regards efficiency and expense, it is superior to any other preserving process, spirits not excepted ; for while the addition of 15 per cent. proof spirits to juice as the preserving agent may be undisputed as to its efficacy, such an addition is so much foreign liquid substituted for the pure juice, probably increasing its price twofold, while Messrs. Rose & Co.’s process is comparatively an infinitessimal addition of a preserving agent, possessing in itself highly medicinal properties, and this at a cost merely nominal. The complete success that has attended this process of preserving lime and lemon juice has enabled Messrs. Rose and Co. to extend their sale amongst grooers, wine and spirit merchants, confectioners, etc., as cooling and delightful beverages, in the shape of “Refined Lime Juice,” “Cordial,” and ” Champagne,” with very great success, and it is to be hoped they will be able still further to cultivate and extend a popular taste in this direction.[18-708] [18-709]

The Lancet. 1868, page 320.
The Lancet. 1868, page 320. [19-320]

Fortunately, shortly after the patent was granted, an analysis of Rose’s Lime Juice was published, in 1868. It is written: “THE WEST INDIA LIME JUICE AND LIME-JUICE CORDIAL OF MESSRS. L. ROSE AND CO., OF LEITH. There are few articles more liable to sophistication than lime- and lemon-juice; and there are but few, also, the consequences of the adulteration of which are more serious. So strongly has this at last been felt to be the case, that the Government has been constrained recently to legislate with a view to secure the purity of these articles. The adulterating ingredients usually employed consist of tartaric acid, bitartrate of potash, common salt, and even sulphurle acid; but not unfrequently the fluid called lime- or lemon- juice consists of little more than a solution of citric acid in water — the salts of potash, which play so important a part in the remedial and curative action of lemon-juice, being in this case entirely absent. By the Merchant Shipping Act, the addition of 15 per cent of proof spirit to lime- and lemon-juice is allowed, for the purpose of preventing fermentation, and thus ensuring its preservation. This addition is however costly. If it be not in other respects objectionable; and we have recently received some samples from Messrs. Rose and Co. which it is affirmed, will keep well for a long period, and which, as we have ascertained by analysis, are perfectly free from spirit. The Sample of Lime-Juice forwarded by the firm above alluded to has a specific gravity of 1026.95, and furnishes 4.03 per cent. of crystallised citric acid, 5.06 per cent. of grape sugar, 2.03 per cent of albuminous matter, 6.16 per cent. of total extractive matter, iron, and the usual potash and other salts. The ash per 1000 grains weighed 2.93. A sample of the Lime-Juice Cordial of Messrs. Rose and Co. had a specific gravity of 1126.40, yielded 2.88 per cent. of crystallised citric acid, 7.95 per cent. of grape sugar, 13.62 per cent of cane sugar, and 31.0 grains of extractive matters, as well as the usual saline constituents. The ash weighed 2.40 per 1000 grains of cordial. As the result of our examination and analysis, we found the samples we operated upon free from spirit, in a good state of preservation, and genuine.[19-320]

What is interesting about this article? The indication of the sugar content. Two different samples were tested. One was Rose’s Lime Juice with 4.02% crystalline citric acid and 5.06% dextrose; the other was Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial with 2.88% crystalline citric acid, 7.95% dextrose and 13.62% cane sugar. [19-320]

Is this Lime Juice Cordial, with which one is supposed to prepare a Gimlet according to popular opinion, different from the one available today? The answer is simple: yes. A glance at the list of ingredients is enough:

  • The German product is labelled with 32.6 g carbohydrates, of which 29.8 g sugar per 100 ml. The ingredients listed are: Water, 35% lime juice from lime juice concentrate, sugar, sodium benzoate and sodium sulphite. [12]
  • In Sweden, the ingredients are listed as: Water, 38% lime juice from lime juice concentrate, sugar, citric acid, sodium benzoate and sodium sulphite. It contains 30 g of carbohydrates, of which 30 g are sugar per 100 grams. [7] [13] However, there is also an alternative product made of water, 27% lime juice from lime juice concentrate, sugar, citric acid, flavourings, E211 and sodium methadisulfite. [8]
  • In Switzerland, water, 38% lime juice from concentrate, sugar, citric acid, sodium benzoate and sodium methadisulphite are included, with 31.6 g of carbohydrates, including 31.6 g of sugar per 100 ml. [6]
  • The English bottling contains: Water, lime juice from concentrate (5%), sugar, citric acid, preservatives, flavourings, sodium metabisulphite, colouring agents (beta-carotene, E142). Per 100 ml there are 4.9 g carbohydrates, of which 4.9 g sugar.[9] [11]

These examples should suffice to show that different recipes are sold in different countries, differing not only in their lime juice content, which ranges from 5 to 38%, but also in their sugar content, as well as in their ratio of sugar to lime juice, and in the use of flavourings, citric acid and different preservatives.

So if you want to prepare a Gimlet today using old recipes, you have to take into account that Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial used to have a different recipe than today. Can this be reconstructed? The analysis of 1868 states that the Cordial contained 2.88% citric acid, 7.95% dextrose and 13.62% cane sugar, making a total of 21.67% sugar. [19-320] From this, the original cordial can be reconstructed quite well.

First of all, remember that citric acid and ascorbic acid are different things. Lemon juice contains about five per cent citric acid by weight; lime juice contains about eight per cent.  [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] Since we know that 2.88% of cordial was citric acid, and lime juice is 8% citric acid, we can calculate that cordial must have originally contained about 36% lime juice. Added to this were the measured 21.67% sugar.

For comparison, the lime juice was said to contain 4.03% citric acid, which would give a lime juice content of about 50%. The dextrose content was given as 5.06%, which suggests that no additional sugar was added. The traditionally preserved lime juice consisted of 85% lime juice and 15% rum. The question therefore arises as to why ship owners should load Rose’s Lime Juice and not the traditionally preserved juice. Certainly, the latter was cheaper, but it required a larger cargo volume that could no longer be used for other goods. So it seems less credible that Rose’s Lime Juice was preferred in shipping. In addition, the Merchant Shipping Act stipulated that lime juice had to be preserved with 15% alcohol. Whether and when this regulation was changed remains to be seen.

Let’s compare this with the modern bottlings. Today, in the German bottling, 100 ml of Rose’s Lime Cordial weighs about 115 g and contains 29.8 g of sugar. That is about 26 percent by weight. The sample analysed in 1868 contained 7.95% dextrose and 13.62% cane sugar, for a total of 21.67%. Unfortunately, it is not stated whether the percentages were by volume or by weight. Let’s just assume percentages by weight. Unfortunately, we do not know how much lime juice was contained, we are only told that the proportion of crystalline citric acid was 2.88%.

We have measured it: 200 g sugar and 100 g water result in 250 ml sugar syrup (2:1). 100 ml of this syrup therefore contains 80% sugar. As a rule, a mixing ratio of 3 parts citrus juice to 2 parts sugar syrup (2:1) results in a balanced sweet-acid ratio. As we have measured, this sugar syrup consists of 80% sugar. If you convert this to 35 ml of lime juice, the current proportion of lime juice in Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial, you would need to add about 23.33 ml of this sugar syrup, which would be 18.667g. A look at a bottle of pure lime juice reveals that it contains 3% sugar. Adding this gives a calculated total of 21.667 g sugar. This result surprised us, as it corresponds exactly to the measured sugar values in the original bottling.

From this we can see that Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial is now much sweeter, and no longer has a balanced sweet and sour ratio. This will be an important aspect when it comes to the recipe for a Gimlet. We will have to come back to these findings there. But first, let’s continue with the history of the Gimlet’s origins.

  1. http://gernot-katzers-spice-pages.com/germ/Citr_aur.html Limette (Citrus aurantifolia [Christm. et Panz.] Swingle).
  2. https://www.flickr.com/photos/kuechenlatein/8970689924/ Nährwerttabellen.
  3. http://contemporaryfoodlab.com/de/uncategorized/2014/03/lemons-and-limes/#:~:text=Die%20f%C3%BCr%20ihre%20S%C3%A4ure%20bekannten,eine%20antioxidative%20und%20krebsheilende%20Wirkung Limetten und Zitronen. By Jasmina Knezovic.
  4. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascorbins%C3%A4ure Ascorbinsäure.
  5. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citronens%C3%A4ure Citronensäure.
  6. https://ch.openfoodfacts.org/produkt/5701125253948/enfrischungsgetr%C3%A4nke-kozzentrat Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial.
  7. https://www.willys.se/produkt/Drinkmix-Lime-Glas-100323213_ST
  8. https://www.tingstad.com/se-en/beverages-edibles/beverages/drinkmixers/roses-lime-57cl-273086 Rose’s Lime.
  9. https://world.openfoodfacts.org/product/5000193140946/lime-juice-rose-s Lime Juice – Rose’s.
  10. https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.211462/page/n767/mode/2up?q=%22lime+juice%22 Encyclopaedia Britannica. Vol. 3, Fourteenth Edition.
  11. https://www.greatbritishfood.de/roses-lime-juice-sirup-1-liter Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial.
  12. https://edeka-foodservice.de/lmiv/lmiv_detail.jsp?region=MI&id=000000000000011529 Rose’s Lime Juice.
  13. https://www.ica.se/handla/sok/cordial/produkt/lime-cordial-drinkmix-alkoholfri-57cl-rose-s-id_p_5701125253948/?s=ica-kvantum-filipstad-id_10891 Rose’s Lime Juice.
  14. https://archive.org/details/foodjournal03unkngoog/page/n76/mode/2up?q=%22lime-juice+champagne%22 The Food Journal. 1. May 1871.
  15. https://archive.org/details/s1237id1376104/page/252/mode/2up?q=%22lime-juice+champagne%22 The Food Journal. 1. August 1872.
  16. https://archive.org/details/sim_every-saturday-a-journal-of-choice-reading_1871-07-01_3_79/page/14/mode/2up?q=%22lime+juice+cordial%22 Every Saturday: A Journal of Choice Reading. 1. July 1871, page 15.
  17. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limey Limey.
  18. https://archive.org/details/b19974760M0119/page/708/mode/2up?q=%22lime+juice+cordial%22 The chemist and druggist. London, 14. November 1868.
  19. https://archive.org/details/londonlancetajo08unkngoog/page/n325/mode/2up?q=%22lime+juice+cordial%22 The Lancet: A Journal of British and Foreign Medicine, Physiology, Surgery, Chemistry, Criticism, Literature, and News. New York, 1868.
  20. Douglas A. Simmons: Schweppes. The first 200 years. ISBN 0-86254-104-2. Springwood Books, London, 1983. See also https://archive.org/details/schweppesfirst200000simm/
  21. https://books.google.de/books?id=r8GbDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT170&lpg=PT170&dq=%22lauchlan+Rose%22+%22patent%22&source=bl&ots=58kGUxo8xT&sig=ACfU3U2kEswd3M0kmxAcYP0sAnOC4SZzBA&hl=de&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjto-aYkvXtAhXwN-wKHZYuClEQ6AEwEXoECBQQAg#v=onepage&q=%22lauchlan%20Rose%22%20%22patent%22&f=false Jack Gillon: Secret Leith. 2019.
  22. https://books.google.de/books?id=jRLGDQAAQBAJ&pg=PA52&lpg=PA52&dq=%22lauchlan+Rose%22+%22patent%22&source=bl&ots=EeN0Qyk4tI&sig=ACfU3U00gRjE-hVU4DUdg6W28oQzboNHvA&hl=de&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjto-aYkvXtAhXwN-wKHZYuClEQ6AEwDnoECAEQAg#v=onepage&q=%22lauchlan%20Rose%22%20%22patent%22&f=false Kate Darling & Aaron Perzanowski: Creativity Without Law: Challenging the Assumptions of Intellectual Property. 2017.
  23. https://archive.org/details/newyorksgreatin00edwagoog/page/n205/mode/2up?q=%22preserving+lime-juice%22 Richard Edwards: New York’s Great Industries. Exchange and Commercial Review, Embracing Also Historical and Descriptive Sketch of the City. New York, 1884.
  24. https://archive.org/details/schweppesfirst200000simm/page/98/mode/2up?q=%22Lauchlan+Rose%22 Rose’s Lime-Juice, Advertisement from 1886.

explicit capitulum


Hi, I'm Armin and in my spare time I want to promote bar culture as a blogger, freelance journalist and Bildungstrinker (you want to know what the latter is? Then check out "About us"). My focus is on researching the history of mixed drinks. If I have ever left out a source you know of, and you think it should be considered, I look forward to hearing about it from you to learn something new. English is not my first language, but I hope that the translated texts are easy to understand. If there is any incomprehensibility, please let me know so that I can improve it.

0 comments on “Gimlet – Part 2: Lime Juice, Seafaring & Rose’s Lime Juice

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *