There has been a lot of press about the Rickey lately: It was named the District’s “Native Cocktail,” Eleanor Holmes Norton unveiled a plaque marking the spot of its creation, and the current occupant of that site — the Marriott’s 1331 Bar — is offering half-price gin or bourbon Rickeys all month.
Lost in this buzz, though, is the DC Craft Bartenders Guild’s third annual Rickey Month contest. Twenty-seven bartenders from 22 bars have come up with their own inventive takes on the simple-yet-refreshing Rickey recipe of bourbon or gin, lime and soda. What’s interesting is that a number of big names aren’t participating this year, including PX’s Todd Thrasher, Proof’s Adam Bernbach, Room 11’s Dan Searing and the Passenger’s Alexandra Bookless, whose Rickey was named Washington’s best last year.
But don’t think that the standards are slipping for those who are competing. Last year, Gina Chersevani of PS7’s came up with the Rickey Ricardo, a tropical mix of coconut, cantaloupe, citrus and gin. This year, “I’m obsessed with the Rapture,” she says with a laugh, so her Rickey is based on her favorite Southern “Church Tea” recipe: tea infused with fresh pineapple and citrus with no added sugar. (Empty calories are her other obsession, apparently.) She carbonated the tea mixture to make a soda, and added bourbon to create the Rapture of the Rickey. As with most of Chersevani’s drinks, a nonalcoholic version is also available.
Competing for the first time this year is Gordon Banks of Jackie’s Sidebar. His Sidebar Rickey — a collaboration with new bartender JP Caceres — features Hendrick’s gin, a spicy house-made Gooseberry soda and lime juice, with a balsamic-injected gooseberry as the garnish. “I love gooseberries,” Banks says. “I think they’re delicious. We put them on the cheese plate, and the chef had a box of them in the walk-in [cooler]. I thought it would make a good Rickey.”
As in past years, the public is encouraged to try a variety of Rickeys. Pick up a punch card at any participating bar, and get it stamped each time you try a different Rickey. Anyone who samples five gets free admission to the Craft Bartenders Guild’s Rickey Party at Jack Rose on Aug. 1, when a panel of judges will determine the city’s best Rickey, as well as a drink on the house. What are you waiting for?