Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pink Lady Cocktail

In honor of my dog Lady's 63rd birthday, I thought it would be fitting to share my recipe for the classic Pink Lady cocktail. Drinking Pink Ladies on her birthday has become a tradition for Aaron and I, ever since we threw her a "surprise" birthday party a few years back. It was really just an excuse to gather with friends and celebrate the night away drinking this delicious cocktail (it turns out, pin the tail on the donkey is a lot more fun after a few drinks!). 

Most classic cocktails often have a long and sordid history with unknown origins. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that the Pink Lady cocktail most likely originated during the run of the Broadway musical, "The Pink Lady," in 1911. Of course, similarities or variations of the pink lady cocktail existed prior to the musical and after, but the drink's most popular recipe can generally be traced back to the Broadway show it was named after.


The Pink Lady was written by Ivan Caryll and C.M.S. McLellan, based on the French farce, Le Satyre, by Georges Berr and Marcel Guillemaud. It opened at the New Amsterdam Theater in New York City, starring Hazel Dawn and William Elliott. The show had a huge initial success and even left Broadway for London. After an unsuccessful run there, the show briefly returned to New York in 1912. The cocktail remained popular after the closing of the show and throughout World War I, and by the time Prohibition came about in 1920, the cocktail was well known throughout the country. Some believe that the cocktail became even more popular during Prohibition, as the grenadine and cream helped mask the poor quality of "bathtub gin." But in 1934, just after Prohibition's end, Esquire magazine listed the Pink Lady among its top 10 worst drinks, also known as "the pansies." Later, in the 1940's and 50s, the drink became even more associated with "girly" drinks, due to the cocktail's name and pink color. After the 50's and 60's, the drink fell out of popularity and generally when you see it on bar menus today, it's more akin to cloyingly sweet Kool Aid  than a sophisticated classic cocktail.

The most basic pink lady recipes call for gin, grenadine, and egg whites, while others include the addition of cream and/or lemon juice. Historically, egg whites were a staple for bartenders of the era, as they were a common ingredient for fizzes and other popular cocktails of the day. Today, if you ordered a pink lady at a bar, you'd be hard pressed to find a bartender who'd include egg whites in your drink. But the addition of  the egg whites creates a nice foamy top. 

Below I've created my recipe for the venerable pink lady, by combining several historical recipes. It's slightly creamy, sweet, and utterly delicious. I find the rose and cucumber notes of new western style gins, such as Hendrick's, to be a better match for the Pink Lady than the juniper notes in London dry style gins. If you have a few spare minutes, homemade grenadine makes a world of difference in cocktails. When made from real pomegranate juice, verses the cloyingly sweet sugar and dye variety found at the grocery store, it adds another depth of flavor to mixed drinks. Cheers, and Happy (Belated) Birthday Lady pooch, you're one classy dame!

Recipe by Michael Sullivan

1 ounce (2 tablespoons) grenadine, plus 1 ounce for the cocktail
3 to 4 tablespoons sugar
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) gin 
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) heavy cream 
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons egg white, lightly beaten (optional)
1 maraschino cherry, for garnish

Place a cocktail class in the freezer, until cold and nicely frosted. Pour the grenadine onto a small plate. On another small plate, add 3 to 4 tablespoons of sugar. Dip the rim of the chilled cocktail glass in the grenadine and again in the sugar. Set aside.

Put a few ice cubes in a martini shaker. Add all of the gin, the remaining 1 ounce grenadine, heavy cream, lemon juice, and egg white to the shaker and shake until very cold. Strain into the prepared cocktail glass and garnish with the cherry. Enjoy immediately. 

Makes 1 Pink Lady cocktail

Recipe by Michael Sullivan

1 cup 100% pomegranate juice (such as Pom Wonderful brand)
3/4 cup sugar
A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice 

Combine the pomegranate juice and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture until it is slightly thickened and becomes a light syrup, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in a few drop of lemon juice. Set aside to cool. Transfer the grenadine to a bottle with a tight-fitting lid, label, and refrigerate for up to 2 months. 

Makes about 1 cup

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