Valentine’s Day Cocktail Blogging: the Pink Lady

by Will on February 14, 2013


Valentine’s Day is perhaps the most patently manufactured holiday. It is similar to something like the ginned-up-out-of-nothing expectation that a wedding ring be equal to the man’s monthly earnings; a scheme to drum up sales. That’s the world we live in, though, so let’s duly observe the celebration of Saint Valentine’s right actions.

Owing to ancient superstitions, the heart continues to function as the symbol of love — or rather, our stylized cartoon representation of the heart, which is most likely an inverted drawing of buttocks. The heart is red, and so red is the color of passion, and thus pink — the lightened form of red — is the color of tenderness. In accordance with this barbaric vestige, our holiday cocktail will be the Pink Lady.

The Pink Lady is in many ways a mysterious cocktail, just as women, for all their sociability, are ultimately quite mysterious. We can love women because we can know them fairly well. The Pink Lady is so mysterious that we can’t know it that well: it is an enigma. There are numerous references to this cocktail from the period spanning the Roaring Twenties through the Eisenhower presidency, mostly disparaging. It also provided the term that the young Richard Nixon used to imply, ever so subtly, that his opponent in the race for one of California’s senate seats, Helen Gahagan Douglas, was a communist. It was a drink that girls unfamiliar with drinking would order. Its color made it less threatening. It is important that before the 20s, bars were gender-segregated, and women not allowed. So cut the ladies some slack, already. However, no two recipes for the pink lady are the same, and the differences are not minute.

Some recipes use grenadine to achieve the pink color. Others use Angostura. Some call for egg whites, others for cream. I have been unable to satisfy my curiosity as to what the original recipe was. Perhaps the status of women at the time was such that bartenders didn’t think it mattered.

I will give the recipe that seems most consistent with the classical art of mixology.

1 1/2 oz. gin

1/2 oz. grenadine

1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice

1 egg white

Shake vigorously on ice and serve in a champagne flute


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