A beloved New England favorite, the Raspberry Lime Rickey, is a popular refreshing, fizzy, and non-alcoholic drink that was once a staple of old-fashioned drug store counters where you could wash down an egg salad sandwich with a tall glass of icy, sweet bubbles and buy a box of Band-Aids all in one place.
You can still find a few of those mom-and-pop drugstores in the depths of Maine and Vermont, but they are disappearing. In fact, a few decades ago in Cambridge, MA, the corner drugstore in my neighborhood was just that sort of place. Sadly, it, along with other stores of its ilk, is no more.
Never mind. You can still make your own rickey at home with raspberry syrup and a squeeze of lime topped off with some club soda. In fact, why not make a pitcher of it and share the wealth? Back porch, anyone?
History of the Raspberry Lime Rickey
Like almost everything in New England, the raspberry lime rickey has a history.
It started after the Civil War in a Washington, D.C. bar. A lobbyist named Joe Rickey’s standard order of bourbon or whiskey over ice with seltzer and a squeeze of lemon caught on and spread all over town. Soon lime replaced the lemon, and during Prohibition in the Northeast it became a popular mocktail, with a few variations from region to region.
Demand for that mocktail survived into the 1950’s and ’60s, with raspberry flavor as the fruit syrup of choice in New England. You’ll still find it on the menu in a few restaurants.
How to Make a Raspberry Lime Rickey
There’s no heavy lifting here. It’s summer! And the living is easy.
Make a raspberry syrup by simmering fresh or frozen raspberries (it doesn’t matter which), sugar, and water just until the sugar dissolves and the raspberries start to fall apart. Strain into a container to remove the seeds and chill. This recipe makes about 2 cups of syrup.
But the real deal here with raspberry syrup is the rickey. Pour it into a glass, add some lime juice and a splash of seltzer. That’s all there is to it.
Can You Make a Rickey with Other Fruit?
Absolutely! The drill is pretty much the same. Substitute just about any berry (think strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and even cranberries) simmer them with sugar and water, then strain the syrup.
Can You Make an Alcoholic Version?
The original lime rickey was made with bourbon, and you could certainly spike your drink with it but feel free to get creative. Gin, vodka, and even rum would work well with the raspberry syrup and lime in this drink.
Just add to taste, depending on how strong a drink you want. For a slightly lighter version, substitute prosecco or cava for the seltzer, or make it with half seltzer and half sparkling or white wine.
Scale the Recipe Down If You Need
This recipe is a pitcher drink that serves 6, but its easy to scale up or down for both large crowds or if you just want to have a solo drink on a hot summer day.
To Make a Raspberry Lime Rickey for One: Combine 3 tablespoons raspberry syrup and 2 tablespoons lime juice in a tall glass filled with ice. And top it off with 6 to 8 ounces of seltzer and enjoy.
More Summer Mocktails
Raspberry Lime Rickey
- For the syrup
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
- For the raspberry lime rickeys
- 1 cup raspberry syrup
- 3/4 cup lime juice
- 48 ounces club soda or unflavored seltzer
- Lime wedges or rounds, for garnish
Make the raspberry syrup:
In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, bring the sugar, water, and raspberries to a boil (about 5 minutes). Adjust the heat low and allow the berries to simmer and cook for 3 minutes, or until the berries fall apart and the sugar is dissolved.
Strain the syrup:
Set a fine mesh sieve over a glass container. Pour the syrup through the sieve. To make a syrup with no small seeds or pulp, let it drain for about 5 minutes without pressing too much on the raspberries to avoid adding too much pulp.
Chill the syrup:
Chill the syrup in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until cool.
Make pitcher drinks and serve:
In a large pitcher, combine 1 cup of the raspberry syrup and the lime juice. Fill the pitcher with ice and pour the seltzer over the top. Stir to combine. Serve the raspberry lime rickeys in glasses garnished with lime wedges or rounds.
You will have leftover raspberry syrup. Just place the rest back in the fridge for future use.