Fruity and fizzy, the raspberry lime rickey is a popular New England summer drink. Learn its history, plus our favorite easy raspberry lime rickey recipe.
By Bethany Bourgault
Jul 01 2021
It’s fruity and fizzy with a signature hint of lime, perfect for cooling off in New England’s summer months. The uniquely New England Raspberry Lime Rickey recipe – raspberry syrup, seltzer, and lime – brings back nostalgic memories of childhood for so many who grew up in the Northeast region. But did you know that this popular soda shop staple got its start in the post-Civil War, Washington D.C bar circuit?
Colonel Joseph Rickey moved to Washington D.C to try his hand at lobbying after the Civil War. He considered himself a bit of an expert on the governmental affairs of the time, and enjoyed his friendships with politicians. He and his friends would meet up for drinks in D.C. bars so frequently that it was no surprise when Rickey’s signature order became popularly recognized. Bartenders and bar-goers alike began calling his choice beverage – bourbon or whiskey, seltzer water, lemon and a hearty chunk of ice – the “Joe Rickey” as early as the 1800s.
Legend holds that Rickey lamented his newfound fame, regretting that he would be remembered for the drink rather than his lengthy and robust career.
(Spoiler alert: he didn’t lament it for too long. Later in life, he bought the establishment that most popularized the beverage and made some sizable profits off this new investment.)
In the meantime, though, the “Joe Rickey” worked its way into the arsenal of almost every bartender in the area. Lime replaced the lemon, and the drink showed signs of spreading even further into the country. At least until prohibition made it illegal.
The “Joe Rickey” quickly found itself facing serious threat of extinction. People were no longer turning to bars, but to speakeasies and black market trading for their fix of spirits. The Rickey as everyone knew it just didn’t have a place anymore.
Just as the country was about to say farewell to the Rickey, it made something of an inadvertent comeback. People noticed that the mocktail version tasted just as “adult” as the cocktail version. (Many say the the lime helped it retain its signature bitter kick.) For years, the Lime Rickey served as a cultural stand-in for alcoholic beverages.
Prohibition, of course, didn’t last forever, but as other once-alcoholic beverages re-embraced their former forms, the rickey did not. People had become so accustomed to the mocktail rickey that rather than regaining its popularity in bars, it found more fans in soda shops and ice cream parlors. New Yorkers added cherry syrup to theirs, and we New Englanders added raspberry syrup to ours. The new version was sweet, tangy, and much “fancier” than regular soda. Soon the “Raspberry Lime Rickey” was all the rage in every jukebox-playing, soda-on-tap dining establishment in the northeast.
Nowadays, you might not see the Raspberry Lime Rickey on the menu as frequently as you used to, but when you do – it’s a treat. For anyone looking to make their childhood favorite at home, here’s a quick Raspberry Lime Rickey recipe below.
Do you remember the Raspberry Lime Rickey? Did you try the Raspberry Lime Rickey recipe? Let us know!
This post was first published in 2016 and has been updated.