“Joe Rickey” – A Man and a Drink

rickey drink

THE REVISED “JOE RICKEY.”
From the Kansas City Star.

The “Joe Rickey” is the name of a new summer beverage which has become fashionable and popular at Washington. It is worthy of the illustrious Missouri statesman whose title it bears. It is made by squeezing half a lime into a large tumbler half filled with crushed ice. A reasonable measure of whiskey is added to this and the glass is then filled with soda from a siphon. When a Kansas man orders a “Joe Rickey” he instructs the barkeeper to leave out the ice, the lime juice, and the soda.

The News (Frederick, Maryland) Aug 8, 1890

Shoomaker's - Washington D.C. (Image from www.shorpy.com)

Shoomaker's - Washington D.C. (Image from http://www.shorpy.com)

Describing Shoomaker’s, excerpt from:

Robert Graves, Discusses with the Gravity Becoming so Important a Subject, the Relative Merits and Prices of Beverages in Washington and New York.
….
There is very little drunkenness in this place considering the large number of customers it has. Of course Shoemaker’s is a gold mine. It is owned by a stock company, one of its shareholders being Joe Rickey, the well known St. Louis politician. A popular summer drink, a mixture of whisky, apollinaris and lime juice, was named the “Joe Rickey,” and had a great run, not only in this house, but in others here. The profits of this famous saloon are not less than $50,000 a year….

Bismarck Daily Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota) Oct 24, 1890

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POPULAR DRINK.
“Rickey” Creation Disclaimed by the Man Whose Name it Bears.

Colonel Joe Rickey, the man who is credited with inventing the drink that bears his name, sat in the cafe of the Waldorf-Astoria talking politics with Senator Squire, Colonel Thomas P. Ochiltree, and several others last night, when the subject of “rickeys” came up for discussion.

As might be expected, Colonel Joe had much information to impart:

“There is a mistaken impression that I created the drink now known all over the world as a “rickey,'” he said, “but, as a matter of fact, I don’t think I ever drank a ‘rickey’ in my life.

“The ‘rickey’ originated in Washington, and I was in a sense responsible for it. You see, it was like this: I never drank whisky neat — it’s a mighty injurious system — but whisky diluted with a little water won’t hurt anybody. Of course, a carbonated water makes it brighter and more palatable, and for that reason I always took a long drink, usually whisky and water with a lump of ice.

“This is the highball of common commerce, and has been known to thirsty humanity for many generations. To this, however, I added the juice of a lemon in my desire to get a healthful drink, for the lemon acid is highly beneficial and tones up the stomach wonderfully.

“This combination became very popular at Shoomaker’s in Washington, which I did most of my drinking, and gradually the folks began asking for those drinks that Rickey drinks. About this time the use of limes became fairly common, and one afternoon an experimenter tried the effect of lime juice instead of lemon juice in the drink, and from that time on all ‘rickey’ were made from limes.

“I never drink the lime juice combination myself, because I think the lemon acid is mellower and more beneficial.

“The drink named after me was always made by the experts in Shoomaker’s from limes thereafter, and soon became popular. Washington during a session of congress, is filled with people from all parts of the country, and soon the fame of the new drink spread north and south, east and west, until it could be found all the way from the granite cliffs of Maine to the Golden Gate of California, and from the gloomy forests of the northwest to the sandy wastes of Key West.

“Only here in New York was it perverted and made a thing of shame. Here they make it with gin, which is a liquor no gentleman could ever bring himself to drink. In fact, the gin rickey is about the only kind known in this city and the average barkeeper looks surprised if you ask him for one made with rye whisky.” — New York Telegraph.

Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio) Jul 7, 1900

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NOT PROUD OF HIS HONORS.
Co. Rickey Is Know Chiefly as the Godfather of a Noted Drink.

Some people are born to fame; others achieve it, while celebrity is thrust upon a few. Among the latter is Col. Joe Rickey, of Missouri. But instead of feeling proud of the fact that he has given his name to a popular tipple Col. Rickey feels very much aggrieved, “only a few years ago,” he said recently, “I was Col. Rickey, of Missouri, the friend of senators, judges and statesmen and something of an authority on political matters and political movements. As time has dealt lightly with me I had no right to quarrel with the world. I am still the friend of statesmen and politicians, and I think I keep fairly well in touch with the world. But am I ever spoken of for those reasons? I fear not. No, I am known to fame as the author of the ‘Rickey,’ and I have to be satisfied with that. There is one consolation in the fact that there are fashions in drinks. The present popularity of the Scotch high ball may possibly lose me my reputation and restore me my former fame. ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished for.”

The Wellsboro Gazette (Wellsboro, Pennsylvania) Jul 26, 1901

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An exchange commenting upon the passing of a recent individual of note says:

Colonel Joe Rickey, inventor of the gin and whisky rickey, is dead, but his memory will long be revered by his fellow countryman. He was not so great an inventor as Edison, but his inventions were much more palatable. They were not so costly as radium, but they were better to have early in the morning.

Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio) Apr 28, 1903

scales of justice

Cause For Thanks.

When Colonel “Joe” Rickey was quite a young man he had occasion to employ a lawyer to collect a bill against a business man with whom he had had a number of dealings. As he had never before retained counsel he went to the lawyer his father had always employed and placed the claim in his hands. The lawyer collected the amount, $276, and notified young Rickey to call for the money. In due time he called, and after waiting for some time, was shown into the private office.

“Good morning, Joseph,” said the lawyer. “I’m glad to see you are so prompt in attending to business. I have your money for you.”

Then ensued a general conversation for a few minutes, in which the lawyer said among other things: “Joseph, I knew your father well and for many years, and I knew your grandfather well and for almost as many years. They were fine men.”

“Yes, sir,” replied Rickey, “but as I am in a hurry, sir, I would like to get my money and go.”

“All right, Joseph. I will charge you even money. I will take $200 for my fee, and give you the $76,” said the lawyer as he handed the money over.

“Very well, sir,” said Rickey, “and I am thankful you did not know my great-grandfather too.”

Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, Nevada) Dec 8, 1903

Wall Street (Image from http://standfastic.com)

Wall Street (Image from http://standfastic.com)

The following paragraph from the New York Tribune shows how western stock gamblers sometimes take in the Wall street sharks: “Joe Rickey of St. Louis knows a good thing when he sees it. Nearly everybody knows “Joe” Rickey. He arrived in New York last Wednesday. He drifted through Wall street during the morning and sold a few stocks short. Thursday he was there again. Friday morning he was on the ground early. Friday night he had $16,000 to his credit as the profits on three days’ operations.

The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) Jul 2, 1887

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What Takes in Missouri.

Chicago Inter Ocean: “Joe” Rickey, who committed suicide in New York yesterday, was for many years a noted character in Missouri, where, as a lobbyist and “gentleman gambler,” he was among the most popular of men.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Apr 27, 1903

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George Williamson died suddenly in Washington, D.C., just before noon yesterday. Williamson mixed the first “gin rickey” ever served over a bar in the United States, according to his friends. The “rickey” was named after the man who directed Williamson to mix it, and it was served to Colonel “Joe” Rickey of Missouri, a well-known politician and bon vivant of Washington a quarter of a century ago.

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Aug 9, 1915

*****

The Quondam Washington D.C. blog has an interesting post about Colonel Rickey.

Finally, at the Wall Street Journal, I found an article entitled, A Lobbyist of Special Interestthat  that include some interesting tidbits about Col.s Rickey and Joyce,  the Whiskey Ring scandal of 1875 and the Gin Rickey.

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11 Responses to ““Joe Rickey” – A Man and a Drink”

  1. Jim Ryan Says:

    This is my first time on this site and what amazing publications you pull from. I’m working on a tribute to Joe Rickey that will be taking place in DC on August 3. We will be making a trip to his grave. Will you be around to attend? I was also wondering if you had the actual papers from these quotations? They would serve as fantastic reference points for the attendees.

  2. mrstkdsd Says:

    Hi Jim,

    I live on the other side of the U.S., so won’t be attending the tribute. I will try to go back and save the article images to email to you, as I didn’t save them when I transcribed them.

  3. Jim Ryan Says:

    Sorry you can’t make it. Any help would be great though. Correction on my first post. I’ll be taking the guests (DC’s finest bartenders) to Williamson’s grave. He’s the gent who created the drink.

    • mrstkdsd Says:

      Jim,

      If you still would like copies of the news clips, please leave me your email addy. I thought it was with your original comment, but it doesn’t seem to be there.

  4. Jim Ryan Says:

    Hello,

    Jim.ryan@wgrantusa.com

  5. Jim Ryan Says:

    Hello,

    Jim.ryan@wgrantusa.com

    Thank you,

    Jim

  6. Joakim Olsson Says:

    Hi, my name is Joakim Olsson.

    i live in sweden and study mixology, atm im study “The Rickey´s” and would like to realy thank you for this great articel.

    and it would be amazing if it would be pos for you to email me the News clips aswell. it would be great to my pressentation about this subject.

    This cocktail has 1 of the most incredibel storys behind it and it would be nice to show the rest of the ppl i work with this story

    thx in before hand
    //Joakim Olsson (Sweden)

    email: Vaftrunder@gmail.com

  7. Rick Jones Says:

    fascinating social history! I suppose i first heard the words ‘Gin Rickey’ in 1941 – it was my Aunt’s favorite tipple on hot Michigan summer nights – and continues to be mine, (we have hot night is California too.

  8. Joseph C. Rickey III Says:

    Absolutely fascinating story about one of my ancestors.. You did him a grreat honor by these articles you found.. Unfortunetly I didn’t know much about “Joe” before this other than he was responsible for the ‘Gin Rickey’, didn’t know about the ‘Whiskey Rickey’.. You made mention of a Joyce, was that his wife? If so it is even more of a story as my wifes name iss Joyce..
    Again thank you..
    Joseph C. Rickey III

    • mrstkdsd Says:

      Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for sharing your connection; he must have been quite the guy.

    • mrstkdsd Says:

      I went back to check who the “Joyce” was that I was referring to, and noticed my link didn’t seem to work anymore. I found the Wall Street Journal article again. Joyce was a Col. Joyce, not his wife:

      “There was indeed a Missouri-born Col. Joseph Kyle Rickey who came to fame as a gregarious Washington lobbyist. And if he’s not exactly the inventor of the Gin Rickey, the drink does bear his name, as we learn from the poet, conman, biographer and grafter Col. John A. Joyce, a pal of Rickey’s and one of the great, gaudy characters of the Gilded Age. Though, happily, we don’t have to rely on the dubious word of Joyce alone.”
      Link:

      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120855043970227091.html

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