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Drink of the Week: The Pink Lady

The Pink Lady should be no secret.So, if you’re English you automatically have today off because it’s Boxing Day, a post-Christmas holiday in its own right. No such luck here in the States, but it’s also just a matter of days before what has to be the U.S.A.’s biggest drinking day of the year. Hard core partiers call it “amateur night,” the rest of us call it New Year’s Eve. And what have I got for you? A drink that was once something of a punchline, though few had tasted it. Now, it’s one for the cultists, but I think that cult should be larger.

The Pink Lady might perhaps be known as the drink that dare not speak its name. In fact, cocktail revivalist Ted Haigh doesn’t want to put mainly drinking men off, so he calls it “The Secret Cocktail.”

Since we’re posting at the blog of an online men’s magazine, you might think I’d be tempted to keep on calling it that. Still, this isn’t a meeting of Spanky, Alfafa, and the He-Man-Woman-Haters Club and I’m here to tell you that the Pink Lady might have a feminine name, it might be frothy and refreshing, but it’s a strong and fairly tart drink that’s definitely not for sissies. It’s also got just a touch of America’s oldest booze, applejack, putting up a strong fight against a larger amount of English gin not to mention fresh lemon juice, a tiny bit of grenadine and our old friend, the egg white. Why not down a couple of these this New Year’s Eve? You just might be man enough.

The Pink Lady

1 1/2 ounces London dry gin
1/2 ounce applejack
1/2-3/4 ounce lemon juice
1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon grenadine
1 cocktail cherry (desirable garnish)

Combine all the ingredients except the cherry in cocktail shaker. Then, it’s time for the so-called dry shake, in which you vigorously agitate the mixture without ice to properly emulsify the egg. I might add it’s possible that you can skip the dry shake if  — like I often do these days — you’re using a pre-packaged, pasteurized egg white product. It’s a bit more liquified and less viscous than egg white straight out of the shell. (3 tablespoons is usually the equivalent of a large egg white, in case you were wondering.)

Next, include lots of ice and shake again, very vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and add the cherry. Of course, if you’re drinking this next Wednesday night you can toast the New Year. Or, you can use the Pink Lady’s badly maligned name to toast the many strong women of all shades who make the world go ’round.

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Since I mentioned Ted Haigh, cognoscenti won’t be surprised that this recipe is adapted from his Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, which seems to have become the basis for most Pink Lady recipes these days in any case. My tweaks were basically in terms of clarifying the measurements. (He calls for two dashes of grenadine and the juice of half a lemon. I like to be a little more specific.)

I made this drink using using the remains of my bottle of Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy (aka 100 proof applejack) and a few different gins. Tanqueray produced a fierce lady, intimidating at first but increasingly gracious on repeated encounters. Super high-end Nolet’s Gin — which I naturally didn’t pay for and which is making a cameo here in preparation for a leading role in a later post — produced a fruitier, spicier Pink Lady.

However, the prize went to the now humble, once regal, Gordon’s Gin. This underrated product was the good stuff in your grandaddy’s childhood and it’s still pretty great in the right context, and the Pink Lady is definitely that. The lower proof (80 compared to Tanqueray’s 94.6) and the lower key juniper/herbal flavor of Gordon’s makes for a smoother, sweeter drink that’s still nobody’s push-over. If you’re looking for some liquid company this year, you could do a lot worse.

Other versions of the Pink Lady you’ll find online are more like the Clover Club minus the lemon or lime juice. I’ve tried that, and let’s just say it makes the mocking treatment of this drink back in the day a bit more understandable. It’s not even a respectable “girl drink.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that.