Perfect for Valentine’s Day
Need a fun cocktail for Valentine’s Day? Something with festive color and bracing flavor, but not too heavy? The Pink Lady may have your number.
This drink originated decades ago. But it fell out of favor for many years, so you may not have heard of it. Though you probably have heard of Jayne Mansfield, who claimed it as a favorite (more on that later).
The Pink Lady Cocktail is retro, romantic, and a little silly. Just like Valentine’s Day. Try it—you’ll heart it.
Recipe: The Pink Lady Cocktail
This drink is essentially a gin sour. Gin is the main alcoholic ingredient (although applejack plays an important supporting role). It’s a sour because it contains citrus (lemon, in this case). Egg white gives the drink a foamy head (you’ll find egg white in some other sours too, like the Whiskey Sour—where its use is optional).
Grenadine adds sweetness to this drink, as well as providing the characteristic pink hue. You should use real (i.e., pomegranate) grenadine, not the ersatz stuff that liquor stores usually stock. Although commercial brands (such as Rose’s) offer attractive fluorescent color, they’re made primarily from artificial flavors. You’re better off making your own Homemade Grenadine—it’s easy and takes just minutes.
The trickiest part of making this drink is decidng how much grenadine to add (to sweeten the lemon). I’ve seen recipes that call for anything from a couple of dashes to an ounce (6 teaspoons). I like my cocktails on the tart side, so I recommend ¼ to ½ teaspoon (I usually opt for ¼). But if that’s not sweet enough for you, feel free to add more grenadine.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare. It serves one (but it’s easy to double if you want to impress your sweetie).
- 1½ ounces gin (use dry “London” gin; see Notes)
- ½ ounce applejack (i.e., apple brandy; see Notes for brand suggestion)
- ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon grenadine, preferably homemade (to taste; see Headnote)
- 1 egg white, preferably pasteurized (if you double the recipe you still need only 1 egg white—see Notes; you can skip this, but the drink won’t look as nice)
- maraschino cherry for garnish (optional, but attractive)
- Add all ingredients (except garnish) to a cocktail shaker that does not contain ice. Shake hard for at least 30 seconds—you want the egg white to foam and create as much volume as possible, and it does this more readily when it’s warm rather than chilled.
- Once the egg white has become foamy and voluminous, add ice to the shaker until it’s half full. Shake vigorously until the contents are icy cold—about 20 seconds.
- Strain the contents of the shaker into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry, if desired, and serve.
- When a cocktail recipe specifies gin, it’s usually understood these days to mean London dry gin—which is also the type most commonly found in liquor stores. Any good name-brand dry gin will work well in this drink.
- In addition to London dry, you might see Dutch or Belgian gin (sometimes called jenever or genever), which is made from malt rather than grain. There’s also Old Tom Gin, which has a sweeter taste. Both of these varieties are less common than London dry.
- The only brand of applejack you’re likely to find at your local liquor store is Laird’s. There are two versions: 80-proof and 100-proof (bonded). Get the 100-proof if you can—its flavor is considerably better.
- Egg whites don’t really add flavor to this drink. Rather, they give it a frothy head that’s quite attractive. You can skip the egg white, but you’ll be missing some of the fun of this cocktail.
- Eggs carry a slight (but real) risk of salmonella. So I suggest using pasteurized ones. Although it’s unlikely that the eggs you buy will be infected, why take the risk?
- You can identify pasteurized eggs because they usually have a red “P” stamped on them.
- If you don't want to separate eggs, you can purchase egg whites in containers (you’ll often find these in the supermarket refrigerator case, near the cartoned eggs).
- Or you could use dried egg-white powder. Supermarkets usually stock this in the same aisle as baking ingredients. You’ll need to thoroughly dissolve the powder in warm water before using it. (Dried powder works reasonably well in cocktails, though I prefer using real egg whites.)
- BTW, if you double this recipe, you don’t need to exactly double the amount of egg white. Just use the white from one large (or even medium) sized egg, and you should be OK.
- There are several different recipes for the Pink Lady floating around, including one that substitutes heavy cream for egg white. But the one I present here is considered the “standard.” It’s also the best tasting, IMO.
- This cocktail has been around since the 1920s, if not before. Over the years, the name “Pink Lady” has also been used as a jokey moniker for just about any alcoholic concoction that happens to have a rosy color. Eric Felten discussed a couple of barely drinkable ones in his column about the Pink Lady a few years back.
- One such potion mentioned by Felten was consumed by American submariners during World War II (they used torpedo fuel as the main ingredient). It seems that torpedoes were fueled by pure alcohol—which the submariners (being sailors) drained from the torpedoes and drank. The US Navy tried to stop the practice by adding a foul-tasting red chemical to the fuel. But the submariners soon learned they could filter out most of the chemical—and wind up with rosy hued alcohol. Of course, they called the resulting drink a Pink Lady.
Feeling the Love
“So Jayne Mansfield liked this drink?” asked Mrs Kitchen Riffs, taking a sip of her Pink Lady. “Guess that proves blonde bombshells aren’t so dumb after all.”
“I think she mostly liked the look of it,” I said. “Pink was her signature color. She apparently decorated her Beverly Hills mansion in pink from top to bottom—and even dyed her poodle to match.”
“I guess the color of this drink is sort of girly,” said Mrs K R, eyeing her glass. “But it’s so appropriate for Valentine’s Day, don’t you think?”
“Absolutely,” I said. “And lots of guys will love the taste of this cocktail—if they can get past the name.”
“Well, if they really insist on being macho about it,” said Mrs K R, “we can just offer them torpedo fuel instead.”
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