C is For Cocktail: Cheers to the Ladies

I wish I could drink like a lady, 
I can take one or two at the most, 
Three and I’m under the table, 
Four and I’m under the host!
–Dorothy Parker (supposedly)

Hello everyone! Today we’re focusing on two cocktails named after ladies.  One is a light and airy soul, much maligned among the cocktail intelligentsia but cheerful with her lot.  The other is a forgotten ghost, rarely seen or heard, who haunts the edges of cocktail history. Both have one thing in common: raw egg whites.  Why eggs, you ask? Because eggs were yet another way to mask the awful taste of cheap bootleg gin, as the creaminess of the egg helped to smooth the harsher notes of the alcohol.

Putting raw egg in your drink may sound less than appetizing, but Tom Haigh, “Dr. Cocktail” himself, swears by it.  I’ll let him explain:

“Raw egg white…creates a border of soft foam.  It gives the mouthfeel [sic] of each sip a soft silkiness.  It embraces the other ingredients, unifying them.  What it does not do is add flavor…it also doesn’t make the drink feel slimy.  And last of all, it doesn’t give you food poisoning: If you refrigerate your eggs, and if you bought them a week or less ago, you can bank on it.”

If you don’t want to take any chances, then pasteurized eggs are the best choice.  As Haigh says, pasteurized eggs “eliminate any risk of disease” so you can drink them raw “with impunity.”  But if there’s no risk of disease, then why don’t you see too many of them on drink menus today?  Haigh thinks it’s because it takes extra time and effort to prepare the drink that way…and it irritates whoever has to wash the glasses afterward. 😉

If you ever want to add a raw egg to your own drink, here is Tom’s technique:

“Crack the egg just like you would if you were going to plop it into a pan, but once you’ve cracked it, move it immediately over the cocktail shaker.  While holding one half of the shell over the shaker like a bowl, lift the top half of the shell. The white will want to come out.  Balance the yolk in the bowl half of the eggshell. Next, pour the yolk into the other half of the shell, which will encourage the rest of the white to separate and add itself into the shaker. Then toss out the shell and yolk, straighten your shoulders, and add the rest of the ingredients.”

Not too hard, right?  Now, onto the drinks! 🙂


T H E   P I N K   L A D Y

Looks tasty doesn't it?

A Pink Lady cocktail with some lovely garnishes. Photo Source: amazingfoods.com

This much maligned drink suffers from an undeserved reputation as a “girly” drink meant for those who cannot hold their liquor—and not just because of its name.  This frilly image is largely thanks to commentators like Jack Townsend, who described your “typical” Pink Lady drinker in his The Bartender Book (1951) in this fashion:

Why, surely you know her. She’s that nice little girl who works in files, who’s always so courteous but always seems so timid. She’s the one who sort of reminds you of your aunt, the quiet one. Naturally, you never expected to see her at a bar. She gets into one about twice a year, at Christmas time or some other high old time. Just why she picks the Pink Lady for these occasions–since the Lady packs quite a wallop–remains a mystery, even to her perhaps. It’s quite possible she has seen the decorative and innocuous-appearing pink-and-white amalgamation passing on a waiter’s tray and decided, “Hmmm, that couldn’t do me any harm…”

While Townsend describes the typical drinker of the Pink Lady as timid and inexperienced with alcohol, he concedes that the drink itself “packs quite a wallop.”  That’s because of a unique ingredient: applejack. For those who don’t know, applejack is distilled liquor made from apples with a considerable kick.  It was one of the first distilled spirits created in the American colonies.  While technically it’s a brandy, it “tastes more like an apple whiskey” according to Haigh—and affects a drinker in much the same way.  The applejack also gives the Pink Lady “its own distinct flavor,” something which is sadly lost in later versions of the drink when the ingredient disappears.


T H E   1 9 1 4   V E R S I O N :

1/2 jigger lime juice*

1/2 jigger gin

1/2 jigger apple jack

5 dashes grenadine.  Shake well.

*Please note: 1 jigger = 1 shot glass = 1.5 fluid ounces


Note the lack of applejack in the following recipe.  Now we just have a sweet pink drink with gin…how sad! 😦  This vintage version comes from Duffy’s Official Mixer’s Manual (1934).

T H E   1 9 3 4   V E R S I O N :

White of 1 Egg

1 Tablepoonful Grenadine

1 Glass of Pymouth Gin

Shake well in ice and strain.

Use glass number 4


T H E   M O D E R N   V E R S I O N :

I’ve included two different modern versions of this drink here, as they represent slightly different takes on this drink.  The first comes from The Ultimate Cocktail Encyclopedia by Walter Burns and contains cream, which is supposedly another 1920s recipe addition.  The second is by Tom Haigh, a.k.a. “Dr. Cocktail,” who printed a special version of it in his book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.  He considered the Pink Lady’s name so controversial that he rechristened it “The Secret Cocktail,” rather than have people reject it out of hand.

Ultimate Cocktail Version:

1 1/2 oz gin

1/4 oz grenadine

3/4 oz simple syrup

1 oz heavy cream


Secret Cocktail Version:

1 1/2 oz (1/3 gill, 4.5 cl) dry gin

1/2 oz (1/2 gill, 1.5 cl) applejack

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 egg white

2 dashes red pomegranate grenadine

Shake it up with all due vigor in an iced cocktail shaker, strain into a cocktail glass, and serve with a cherry.

~ * ~

Next up we have another eggy lady drink—but this one is dressed up all in white…


T H E   W H I T E   L A D Y

a ghostly White Lady

A ghostly White Lady cocktail. Photo Source: The Kitchn

The White Lady is another Prohibition cocktail with a murky past.  Folks say she was invented by a guy named Harry—but which one?

Esquire magazine claims that the White Lady was invented in 1919 in London by Harry MacElhone, an American transplant, as a direct response to the horrors of WWI.  According to Esquire, his original recipe consisted of an “unhealthy” blend of two thirds Cointreau, one sixth crème de menthe, and one sixth lemon juice—a combination that supposedly evoked the choking clouds of chlorine gas that floated through the trenches of WWI.  Later on, when Harry had established his own bar in Paris, he returned to the White Lady and tried a different tack, replacing the crème de menthe with gin and cutting back on the Cointreau—but adding an egg white instead, in keeping with its ghostly appearance. Others say that it was made by Harry Craddock, another famous cocktail inventor at the Savoy Hotel in London. This seems to be substantiated solely by the fact that it appears in that holy grail of cocktail guides, The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), rather than any actual facts.

Whoever made it, the White Lady is basically a sidecar made with gin instead of brandy, plus an egg white (and sometimes sugar and cream, depending on who’s making it). And like a sidecar, it takes both high-quality ingredients and a master technique to truly make it shine.  According to The Kitchn, all of the flavors combine to make a “sweet, tart, and bright-tasting” cocktail that’s very refreshing, akin to “lemonade with a subtle orange twist.”

Perhaps that’s what made it the favorite drink of comedy duo Laurel and Hardy!


Strangely enough, everything I read said this was a pre-Prohibition drink—but I couldn’t find it in any of the older cocktail books I looked through. The oldest version I could find comes from Patrick Duffy’s 1934 cocktail mixing guide.  Go figure…

T H E   1 9 3 4   V E R S I O N :

1/4 lemon juice

1/4 Cointreau

1/2 dry gin

Stir well in ice and strain into glass.

Use glass number 2


The modern version listed below comes from Employees Only, a cocktail bar in New York that re-imagines classic Prohibition cocktail recipes.  They published this version of a White Lady in their book Speakeasy: Classic Cocktails Reimagined. It calls for Plymouth gin, a special kind of gin that comes from England, but it’s possible to use other kinds of dry gin.

T H E   M O D E R N   V E R S I O N :

1 3/4 ounces Plymouth gin

1 1/4 ounces Cointreau

1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 orange twist, for garnish

Pour the gin, Cointreau, and juice into a mixing glass. Add large cold ice cubes and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the orange twist.


Author’s Side Note:

While researching these two cocktails, I came across an entertaining article in the Wall Street Journal by reporter Eric Felton back in 2007.  He found out that there used to be more than one drink called the Pink Lady.  Back in the 1930s and 1940s, hobos and sailors made truly noxious drinks which they referred to by that name, mostly because they were nothing like real Pink Ladies. Here is a piece of his article:

There have been worse concoctions called “Pink Lady.” A favorite skid-row dram was once made by heating Sterno cans: when the paraffin melted, it could be separated from the alcohol, which poured off with a pinkish hue. With a wry nod to the highfalutin, hoboes called the drink “Pink Lady.” Submariners in World War II enjoyed (if you can call it that) a similar cocktail. The fuel powering torpedoes was straight alcohol, manufactured by the same distilleries that had been making whiskey before Pearl Harbor. When the Navy brass learned that sailors were draining the fish to get at the “torpedo juice,” they had a noxious red chemical added to the fuel to discourage the practice. Not to be denied, the men found that a loaf of bread, with the heels cut off, made an admirable filter. In one end they poured the red torpedo juice; out the other end came a marginally less noxious tipple they named “Pink Lady.”

Interesting, no? 😉  You can read the rest of Felton’s article here. 

Works Cited:

Haigh, Ted. 2009. Vintage spirits and forgotten cocktails: from the alamagoozlum to the zombie and beyond : 100 rediscovered recipes and the stories behind them. Beverly, Mass: Quarry Books.

Clarke, Paul. “A Change in Fortune.” The Cocktail Chronicles. March 22, 2006. http://www.cocktailchronicles.com/2006/03/22/a-change-in-fortune/

Wikipedia entry: Pink Lady.

Wikipedia entry: White Lady.

Straub, Jacques. 1914. Drinks. Chicago, IL: The Hotel Monthly Press. http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/012393286 (full text available)

Duffy, Patrick Gavin. 1934. The Official Mixer’s Manual. New  York, NY: R. Long & R. R. Smith. http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/010747167 (full text available)

Felten, Eric. “This Lady is Tart in Taste.” The Wall Street Journal. March 31st, 2007. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB117528672999854940

Kosmas, Jason, Dushan Zaric, and John Kernick. 2010. Speakeasy: classic cocktails reimagined, from New York’s Employees Only Bar. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

Wondrich, David. “White Lady.” Esquirehttp://www.esquire.com/food-drink/drinks/recipes/a3725/white-lady-drink-recipe/

Maynard, Nora. “Oscar Night Tipple: White Lady Cocktail.” the kitchn. http://www.thekitchn.com/oscar-night-tipple-white-lady-140131

About lupachi1927

My name's Megan, and I'm a writer with an interest in history. While I might not be a real historian, I'm a very thorough researcher. As an amateur historian, this blog is my place to post about all the interesting historical tidbits I find that can't use in the novel I'm working on, which takes place in Chicago in 1927. If you're looking for research help, writing feedback, or just want to say hi, feel free to drop me a line! :)
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3 Responses to C is For Cocktail: Cheers to the Ladies

  1. jazzfeathers says:

    I knew the Pink Lady, but not the White Lady… though this sencond, with its ghostly aura, quite intrigues me 😉


  2. Pingback: C is for Cocktail: Celebrate the Savoy with a Classic 1920s Cocktail by Forgotten Bartender Ada Coleman | A Smile And A Gun

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