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The lime rickey is an outrageously refreshing drink that works as a cocktail or mocktail! It’s equally as delicious with gin or virgin.

Lime rickey
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Here’s a bubbly drink that’s equally as refreshing as a cocktail or mocktail: the Lime Rickey! This refreshing drink is a cousin of the classic Gin Rickey, though some people consider it the same drink. Others say the lime version is a virgin drink. Whatever your definition: we’ve got a recipe! Make it with gin or whiskey, or use our mocktail substitutes. Take one sip and it’s fizzy, bubbly, and ultra tangy: with effect of jumping into a cold pool on a hot summer day. Here’s how to make it: whatever way you choose!

What’s a lime rickey?

The Gin Rickey is a highball cocktail made with gin, soda water and lime juice. It was invented in the 1880’s with bourbon, then became very popular with gin in the 1890’s. The story goes that a Democratic politician named Colonel Joe Rickey made up the drink in a Washington DC bar (here’s more on that). The drink rose to worldwide popularity, and is even mentioned in books like the 1920’s novel Great Gatsby.

Some people say a “Lime Rickey” is the same as a Gin Rickey. Others claim it’s a rickey made with gin or bourbon, like the original rickey back in the day. Still others say it’s a mocktail! It’s popularly made as a mocktail: sometimes straight up with no sugar, and sometimes with sugar added.

Lime rickey

Option 1: Make the lime rickey cocktail

The lime rickey is an ultra simple drink, like most highball cocktails. Highball cocktails are drinks that have a larger ratio of non-alcoholic mixer to liquor. Most of the time, highballs are mixed in the glass: so no need to dirty a cocktail shaker! Grab these ingredients and pour them into a glass:

  • Gin or bourbon
  • Soda water (carbonated water, not sweetened)
  • Lime juice, fresh squeezed

Add ice and lime wedges, and serve! It’s as easy as that. Our preference? We like the drink with gin like the Gin Rickey, since we find gin to be smoother than bourbon. But bourbon is great too: it’s a little like a Whiskey Highball.

Lime rickey

Option 2: Make the lime rickey mocktail

Looking for the mocktail version? There are a few difference ways to tackle this as a virgin drink. Do the same thing as above, but instead of gin, pick one of the following options:

  • Option 1: Use caper juice or pickle juice! This sounds odd, but it’s actually very effective. Using a hint of the juice in a jar of capers or pickles adds complexity so that the drink tastes like it has alcohol! We use this same idea in our Virgin Margarita and it really works. (Try it!)
  • Option 2: Use simple syrup. Some lime rickey recipes use sweetener, but purists generally go without. It does make a tasty lime beverage, though: almost like sparkling limeade!
  • Option 3: Go without anything. You can also make a lime rickey with just lime juice and soda water. It’s extremely refreshing and delicious.

All of these options are equally refreshing: we’ve tried them all! We’re partial to option 1 or 3; we don’t find that this drink needs sweetener. But if you love sweet drinks, it makes it go down even easier!

Variation: go fruity and try cherry or raspberry!

The lime rickey has inspired lots of variations and flavors. You can get creative and use whatever flavored cocktail syrup you like. Adding fruity syrups is a fun way to make the drink look even more festive…and taste even better! Here are a few of our favorite ideas:

  • Cherry Lime Rickey Bright red sweet cherries go hand in hand with lime, and make a stunning sweet tart variation
  • Raspberry Lime Rickey Sweet raspberry tastes incredible and makes for a festive drink!
Cherry lime rickey
Once you’ve made the classic, try the Cherry Lime Rickey and Raspberry Lime Rickey!

Other cocktails that are rickey variations

The lime rickey is just one in a long line of bubbly highball cocktails! There are lots of twists on this concept using different alcohol. If you like this one, you’ll especially love a Vodka Soda or Ranch Water. Here are a few popular variations on the rickey:

When to serve a lime rickey

The lime rickey is bubbly and refreshing: it works as a cocktail or mocktail! It’s great for serving as a:

  • Summer drink
  • Afternoon drink
  • Before dinner drink (aperitif)
  • Cocktail hour drink
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Gin rickey

Classic Lime Rickey

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x
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The lime rickey is an outrageously refreshing drink that works as a cocktail or mocktail! It’s equally as delicious with gin or virgin.*


  • 1 ½ ounces (3 tablespoons) fresh lime juice*
  • For a cocktail: 3 ounces gin or whiskey
    For a mocktail: ¼ teaspoon caper juice or pickle juice**, ½ ounce simple syrup, or omit entirely
  • 4 ounces (½ cup) soda water
  • Ice, for serving (try clear ice)
  • For the garnish: lime wedges


  1. Add the lime juice and alcoholic or non-alcoholic mixer (whiskey, gin, caper juice or simple syrup) to highball glass and stir.
  2. Fill with ice and top with sparkling water. Garnish with lime wedges.


*For a fruity spin, go to Cherry Lime Rickey or Raspberry Lime Rickey.

**Caper juice or pickle juice may sound unusual, but they’re a way to mimic the flavor of alcohol (see our Virgin Margarita). 

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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