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Posted at 12:50 PM ET, 07/ 9/2010

Your passport to cooling off: Rickey Month

By Lavanya Ramanathan

The Rickey Month passport. (D.C. Bartenders Guild)

When temperatures like these descended, 19th-century Washingtonians found respite in a refeshing cocktail that had become all the rage across the country.

The Rickey.

It's said that a Democratic mover-and-shaker in the city, Col. Joseph Rickey, cooked up the concoction, made with only bourbon, half a lime, ice and mineral water (later made with gin). Other versions of this story claim that the drink was in fact invented by a barman from the D.C. saloon Shoomaker's, which Rickey frequented.

There are two things everyone agrees on: The Rickey was born right here in Washington, and during a D.C. summer, the drink is like air-conditioning in a glass.

Three years ago, to kick off an effort to make the drink the official cocktail of Washington, the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild began celebrating the native beverage with the Rickey Month competition. Craft bartenders across the city concoct their own modern version of the Rickey, adding such ingredients as opal basil and lemon bitters, ginger, even homemade "black pepper-lime soda." The only rules for creating a Rickey 2.0, explains guild co-founder Derek Brown (of the Passenger), are that the drink should have a citrus element, stick to the highball format (which, he explains, means there should be ice and soda or some other form of bubbles) and, of course, be made with bourbon or gin.

Thirsty, aren't you? Read more after the jump.

Rickey Month began this week, and through July, you can taste more than 25 Rickeys at such bars as Againn, Poste Brasserie, Proof and PX. The Passenger's Hello Rickey uses honeydew; Proof's Salty Ginny Thing re-creates Vietnamese salty lemonade; Urbana's Plum Rickey is infused with house-made plum-rosemary preserves and pluot juice; and Bourbon Glover Park's bourbon-based Cherry SummerThyme Rickey gets its kick from thyme and lemonade.

To help you track your tastings, the bartenders guild created a "passport" with all the drinks and where you can find them. Pick up a passport at any of the participating bars (the Passenger is a good bet, since it has created two four cocktails for the occasion), and get it stamped wherever you try a new Rickey.

Collect 10 stamps (a bank-account-draining feat, considering the cocktails run $9 to $13 apiece), and you get free admission to the final night of Rickey Month, at the Passenger on Aug. 2.

If you don't have time to hit 10 bars and accumulate stamps, you can always pay the $10 admission, which includes one classic Rickey (so you know what the original tastes like before you taste the competition). During the bash, the winning cocktail -- selected by a vast team of cocktail writers and bloggers, including The Post's Fritz Hahn -- will be announced; the inventive bartender takes home $1,000.

--Lavanya Ramanathan

By Lavanya Ramanathan  | July 9, 2010; 12:50 PM ET
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