Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Pink Lady Cocktail

Pink Lady Cocktail with maraschino cherry garnish

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.


Pink Lady Cocktail with maraschino cherry garnish

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).

Ingredients
  • 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)
Procedure
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Strain the contents of the shaker into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry, if desired, and serve.
Pink Lady Cocktail with maraschino cherry garnish

Notes
  • 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.
Pink Lady Cocktail with maraschino cherry garnish

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.”

You may also enjoy reading about:
Kir Royale Cocktail
French 75 Cocktail
Classic Champagne Cocktail
Bellini Cocktail
Mimosa Cocktail
Cocktail Basics
Maiden's Prayer Cocktail
Bridal Cocktail
Or check out the index for more

98 comments:

  1. Good morning John , the 'Pink Lady' is beautiful , you are so right , any drink that's pink that what it's call . I think I will practice on this drink this weekend so I will have it down pat Valentine's Day ;-D . Thanks so much for sharing :)

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    1. Hi Nee, isn't this gorgeous? And the drink is superb -- once you taste it, you'll have it often. Thanks for the comment.

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  2. Hi John, wowwwww... this cocktail is really gorgeous and elegant. Love the lovely colour. Need to sip very slowly to enjoy this refreshing cocktail. :)) Thanks for sharing.

    Have a great day ahead.

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    1. Hi Amelia, isn't this nice? And is tastes better than it looks! Thanks for the comment.

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  3. I have heard of this drink all my life and never given it much attention until now. Wowza, how beautiful is it?! Of course I've said it before and I'll say it again, no one can photograph a cocktail like you. Just gorgeous. I feel like I pull it off the screen and take a sip.

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    1. Hi Karen, this is definitely worth trying -- the flavor is wonderful. Plus it's pretty! Thanks for those kind words, and for taking time to comment.

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  4. I agree with you, Valentines day is silly. But how else would the chocolate, flower and jewellery industry get their fair share of the business? Even though I don't drink, I live your cocktails. They are so pretty and I love the stories behind each. Do you think you would've enjoyed the era of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and cocktails and cigarettes?

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    1. Hi Nazneen, Valentine's Day is a hoot -- Mrs K R and I are rather silly, so it's perfect for us! ;-) Although I find the Hemingway era fun, I'm pretty happy to be living in the age of the internet! They really did create some great cocktails back then, though. Thanks for the comment.

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  5. It was such fun to read this Valentine's Day inspired post, John.
    This cocktail is perfect in color and flavor to celebrate la vie en rose on the 14th.
    As we both love sours, I think the "Pink Lady" will make an impressive entrance
    in our home on VD :)

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    1. Hi Daniela, this cocktail really was wonderful flavor. It's one that we drink often, and o;f course it's perfect for Valentine's Day! Thanks for the comment.

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  6. Gorgeous! If drink can be called that, then that's what it should be called. A gorgeous Pink Lady!! I should ensure my sweetie sees this so he can impress me! Fabulous post.

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    1. Hi Ansh, I think it's gorgeous too! And I hope your sweetie takes the hint. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Who can resist a Pink Lady? Not me and you know how I feel about grenadine. Although, a friend did make homemade grenadine recently and I must say it went down a down a whole lot smoother than the store bought stuff.

    I think it's a hoot about the sailors. I've heard some stories of how they improvised when it came to food and drinks but never this one. Thanks for the tidbit, John. And thank you so much for sharing this drink. It really is just perfect for Valentine's Day. I may just have to imbibe:)

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    1. Hi Louise, this is really a great drink. Wonderful for Valentine's Day, of course, but darn good any time. Thanks for the comment.

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  8. Oh wow... so pretty! I love that this pretty drink has great flavor (not just the look, but good inside!). The other day I tried to take a picture of a drink, and completely failed! You make all your drink photography look easy and pretty, but in reality, I know it's a hard work!!! Really hats off to you, John!!

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    1. Hi Nami, I use an awful lot of backlighting in drinks photos, plus I really do what I can to control the reflections on the glass. It took a lot of playing around before I figured out what works for me. Anyway, this is a wonderful drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  9. Great post John. This is perfect for Valentine's Day.

    M~

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    1. Hi Madonna, isn't this nice? A terrific drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  10. I think this girly needs this girly drink for V-day (sans the sub fuel---seriously?) :)

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    1. Hi Debra, seriously about the sub fuel! It was really just pure grain alcohol (like, 180 proof!), although before the war ended they switched to battery-powered electric engines. And you do need this for V-Day! Thanks for the comment.

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  11. Hi John, this is absolutely gorgeous! I wonder if I can tempt you to share it for my Valentine's Day recipe round up? PM me on FB if you will : )

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    1. Hi Lizzy, of course! I'll PM you in a bit. Thanks for the comment.

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  12. What a pretty pink lady... So perfect for V-day!!!!

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    1. Hi Denise, isn't the color great? And the flavor is better! Thanks for the comment.

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  13. I'm by-passing Valentine's Day this year but I could still be tempted to one of these!

    Krissie x - http://pearlsofstyle.blogspot.com.au/

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    1. Hi Krissie, these are really good - no need to wait for a special occasion to enjoy. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  14. What a pretty cocktail and such beautiful photographs.
    --Rocquie

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    1. Hi Rocquie, isn't it a nice drink? Truly delish. Thanks for the comment.

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  15. Hi John,

    I'm sure that this cocktail will be a winner amongst most girls who like pink *wink* What a great drink to celebrate Valentine's day with your beloved one!

    Zoe

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    1. Hi Zoe, it's a great drink no matter whether you like pink or not! Thanks for the comment.

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  16. I want to look classy and drink this gorgeous cocktail asap :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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    1. Hi Uru, I think this drink would be perfect for you! Maybe with a chocolate truffle on the side? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  17. Those photos make me want to go to the liquor store pronto. I have no problems with pink but nobody would ever call me a girly girl. :)

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    1. Hi Maureen, going to the liquor store is always a fun activity! Particularly when you bring back the makings for this. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  18. Applejack! Did not expect that. I thought pink was macho now - especially the subtle pink??? I love this tipsy beverage. This would make a nice change. Looking at surprising the husband ... maybe even before Valentine's Day!

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    1. Hi Claudia, I know for quite some time in the 90s and later, pink was a popular color for "power" ties. This was back when guys wore suspenders a lot, too. I've not kept up with office fashion, thank goodness -- I started freelancing in the mid-90s and never looked back. Anyway, definitely make this before Valentine's Day. Just to perfect the amount of grenadine you want to add to your drink, you know. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  19. Elegant, and so delicate, so Valentine!!!!

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    1. Hi Minnie, does this cocktail just scream Valentine's Day? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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    1. Hi Alyssa, and you should have one! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  21. A perfect sip for Valentine's Day. I picture myself in a Betty Boop-type dress drinking it with a big smile. ;)

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    1. Hi Carolyn, the Betty Boop-type dress would be a great touch! Thanks for the comment.

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  22. I think I'd feel sick if I stepped inside Ms Mansfield's house. All that pink would give me a migraine. But a little is okay so this cocktail would be absolutely fine. I agree that the cherry makes it very decorative and special looking. I'm quite fond of gin (in cocktails) and I prefer the sour-lemon type of cocktail to the sweeter, creamier ones. But thanks for letting me know about the Brandy Alexander. I do like Baileys so I should try a Brandy Alexander xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, a Brandy Alexander is better than Baileys, IMO. And I'm a big fan of sours too. This is really a good one -- I think you'd enjoy it. Thanks for the comment.

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  23. Looks elegant and lovely -- and fun! Can't wait to try it, though I might not wait as long as Valentine's day at all.. :)

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    1. Hi Deepa, I wouldn't wait! And having one (or two!) earlier than Valentine's Day won't at all spoil the one you have then. It's a great cocktail. Thanks for the comment.

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  24. A refined and classy cocktail! I'd love to taste it.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Hi Rosa, it's really a super drink -- loads of flavor and great looks. Thanks for the comment.

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  25. LOVE your cocktail series! I know I've told you that before, but I do :) This one looks so perfect for Valentine's Day - thanks, John!

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    1. Hi Kristy, you really need to have one of these for Valentine's Day. ;-) Thanks for the kind words, and for taking time to comment.

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  26. This cocktail is gorgeous and so perfect for Valentine's Day but I won't wait until Valentine's Day to try it, that's for sure! :)

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    1. Hi Dana, good idea to taste test before Valentine's Day to make sure you like it. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  27. It is a lovely looking drink, and absolutely perfect for Valentines Day! Thanks for sharing it!

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    1. Hi Donalyn, isn't this nice? I love the color, but it's the flavor that's really wonderful. Thanks for the comment.

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  28. I'm a sucker for a pink drink with a cherry garnish! The flavors in this sound great together.

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    1. Hi Laura, sounds like this is just the drink for you! Thanks for the comment.

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  29. The color and look of this drink turned out beautiful! Perfect for so many special occasions!

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    1. Hi Pamela, doesn't this look great? It's really an excellent drink -- truly worth trying. Thanks for the comment.

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  30. It may be a bit girly, but I hope that doesn't stop anyone from trying it!
    What a perfect drink for a baby shower - as long as you had a matching counterpart in light blue. I don't know what that would be, but if anyone would know, it would be you!
    A great choice for a pre-Valentine post.

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    1. Hi Beth, a light blue drink? The first one that pops to mind is the Blue Hawaii, which is a tall drink. Which might actually work better at a baby shower -- it's a slow sipper.Plus it looks great with a little umbrella. ;-) As far as the Pink Lady, its name may be a bit girly, but the drink has major league flavor. Really a good one. Thanks for the comment.

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  31. so pretty! i really love retro drinks, even if they are pink and vaguely silly. I've never had a Pink Lady, but the flavors sound like something i'd really be into. Perfect post for Valentine's Day!

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    1. Hi Shannon, this is really a super drink -- totally worth having, despite its name. And isn't it a great Valentine's Day drink? Thanks for the comment.

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  32. Love that it's called a Pink Lady, perfect for Valetine's Day.

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    1. Hi Caroline, I agree both the name and color make this wonderful for Valentine's Day! And the drink is so good, you'll want to drink it all the time. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  33. Did Jayne Mansfield really dye her poodle pink? Okey dokey.....:) I just bought some Pink Lady apples that are quite tart. I wonder.....Beautiful little cocktail John, and yes, perfect for Valentine's Day. Love the sweet/tart combination. BTW - I have to wonder how many people actually know that the 100 proof applejack tastes better than the 80 proof. :)

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    1. Hi MJ, about the applejack: one must experiment, no? ;-) This really is a great cocktail. And yes, Jayne Mansfield really did dye her poodle pink. Strange. Thanks for the comment.

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  34. Love everything about this...the name, the color, ...come on 5 o'lock!! LOL

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    1. Hi Ashley, it's always 5 o'clock somewhere. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  35. I happen to think that most men look good in pink! And I like this drink. I like all your gin drinks. And they like me sometimes a little too well!

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    1. Hi Abbe, a pink tie or shirt with a lightish grey suit is a nice combo! IMO, of course. You'll like this drink -- great color, better flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  36. Such a delicious looking cocktail.
    I would happily have one of two of these on Valentines day.
    Gourmet Getaways

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    1. Hi Julie, why wait for Valentine's Day? Why have one of these ahead of time to make sure you like it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  37. what a gorgeous photo!
    Seeing this reminds me of summer...which I think will never be here.

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  38. Hi Dawn, this is a somewhat summery looking drink. And hard as it to believe with our uncomfortable winter, summer will arrive. Eventually. Thanks for the kind words, and for taking time to comment.

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  39. Truly stunning!!! I have not had applejack yet, but I must buy it VERY soon! What a beautiful cocktail for Valentine's Day! Gorgeous, Take care, Terra

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    1. Hi Terra, isn't this pretty? You'll like applejack -- it has a flavor that's lighter than something like bourbon, but with a nice crisp finish to it. Thanks for the comment.

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  40. I don't recall ever having a Pink Lady but I love the ingredients in this. Sounds more on the sweeter side which I like. Thanks for the recipe.

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    1. Hi Vicki, you can make this cocktail as sweet as you like -- just add more grenadine. It's an excellent drink. And looks great, too! Thanks for the comment.

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  41. I think this looks like a really fun and pretty cocktail - and really lovely for Valentine's Day! I always enjoy reading your cocktail recipes :-)

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    1. Hi Amy, this really is a delish drink! Extremely tasty. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  42. Wow a drink with even with pasteurised egg whites! You are on the cutting edge of being the most awesome bartender. So pretty and pink. Happy Valentines day to you and Mrs. Riff.

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    1. Hi Bam, cutting edge and awesome both?! Please say more! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  43. Love the color, name, pictures .......... everything. It looks so refreshing!

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    1. Hi Chris, isn't this a pleasant drink? And its flavor is wonderful -- definitely worth a try. Thanks for the comment.

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  44. Alcohol pretty much doesn't gel with my system but this looks very enticing!

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    1. Hi easyfoodsmith, a lot of people don't drink, so this recipe won't interest them. But the pictures are pretty! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  45. This is a pretty drink, sound like it would be a nice one for Valentine's Day

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    1. Hi Dawn, isn't this pretty? And so tasty, too! Thanks for the comment.

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  46. It sounds great - loved all the history/curiosities behind it. I think I'll "accidentally" open your post before my boyfriend... so he'll prepare us one. ;)

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    1. Hi Alex, don't you love those sorts of "accidents?" ;-) You'll both enjoy this -- it's a terrific cocktail. Thanks for the comment.

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  47. What a pretty drink! I agree with you that Valentine's Day is a bit silly; but count me in, if it gives me an excuse to enjoy this beautiful cocktail. :)

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    1. Hi Gomo, sometimes silly is good! ;-) This is a lovely drink -- hope you have a chance to enjoy it. Thanks for the comment.

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  48. yeah with homemade grenadine! I would so love this for valentines day. I never tried making a cocktail with egg whites. Sounds interesting and I am going to show this my husband now. Again fantastic post John, thank you!

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    1. Hi Helene, this cocktail is so worth making! Really tremendous flavor. And pretty! Thanks for the comment.

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  49. Hahaa... you write these posts so well John! Torpedo fuel! :) Great notes re the ingredients and method. I've always been very wary of putting egg whites in cocktails for the exact same reasons you mentioned. Not sure if pasturised egg whites are stamped with P over here, I'll have to take a look. I normally detest 'girly' cocktails but being a gin fiend, I am very tempted to try this!! I love the fact that you used homemade grenadine, I am definitely going to head right over to that recipe now!

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    1. Hi Laura, this drink looks girly but drinks like anything but! It's a wonderful drink -- really super flavor. You can leave the egg white out -- we often do -- but you don't get quite as nice a looking drink. Thanks for the comment.

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  50. Pretty cocktail!! Perfect for v-day. Thanks for sharing, John :)

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    1. Hi Kiran, doesn't this look wonderful? And it truly tastes even better! Thanks for the comment.

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