Dirty Shirley

Dirty Shirley

All child stars grow up eventually: Just look at the vodka-spiked Shirley Temple, otherwise known as the Dirty Shirley.

Before seemingly every cocktail menu had a spirit-free section with thoughtfully made drinks, the Shirley Temple, named for the 1930s-era movie star, was a go-to option for non-drinkers and children alike. You might remember drinking the bright-red mix of ginger ale or lemon-lime soda and grenadine—garnished with a fluorescent maraschino cherry, of course—while the grown-ups at the table sipped more potent concoctions.

The drink has multiple origin stories, but it likely debuted in the 1930s or ’40s, when its red-headed namesake was gracing black-and-white screens: Restaurants and hotels including the Brown Derby and Chasen’s in Los Angeles and The Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki have all laid claim. It’s worth noting that Temple herself wanted nothing to do with her eponymous beverage: “The Shirley Temple? Those saccharine, icky drinks?” she complained in a 1985 NPR interview. Temple even went to court twice to defend her name against companies trying to sell a bottled version of the mocktail. 

It’s unclear who first decided the drink would be made better with the addition of alcohol, but adults have been spiking their childhood favorite for years. And The New York Times raised more than a few eyebrows when it published a piece asking if the Dirty Shirley was 2022’s drink of the summer. After all, it’s decidedly less grown-up than 2021’s breakout star, the Espresso Martini.

You can drink a Dirty Shirley at any age (over 21, of course) with the recipe below. Like the classic, the dirty version combines a simple combination of soda and grenadine. You can swap ginger ale for the lemon-lime soda, and you can certainly make your own grenadine for a more modern take, but when you’re sipping sweet nostalgia, the bottled stuff will probably do just fine. And don’t forget the vodka: It’s proof that this former child star is ready to party.

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce grenadine
  • Lemon-lime soda (such as 7UP or Sprite), chilled, to top (about 6 to 8 ounces)
  • Garnish: maraschino cherry

  1. Add the vodka and grenadine into a highball glass filled with ice.
  2. Top with the lemon-lime soda and stir gently and briefly to combine.
  3. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.


Be the first to comment:

Login to comment: