The Untold Truth Of The Shirley Temple

Was the very first mixed drink you were ever served pretty in pink, topped with a maraschino cherry, perhaps an orange slice, and if you were really, really lucky, even a cute little paper umbrella? If so, like millions of kids before you, you may have encountered the world's first mocktail which is now (probably) well into its 9th decade: the iconic Shirley Temple.

While the Shirley Temple is often maligned for its sugary sweetness, that's exactly the kind of thing most kids tend to go for — few 5-year-olds, after all, have the kind of sophisticated palates that are going to have them appreciate the nuances of a dry martini or a G&T, even if there were virgin versions available. Plus, with the ST, it's not just about the taste, it's more about having something that feels special. As bar owner Tara Heffernon told Liquor, "Every person should get to feel the magic of a cocktail experience created for them, instead of just handing someone soda water and calling it a day."

How the Shirley Temple came to be

According to legend (and Newsweek), the first Shirley Temple was concocted and christened at the legendary Hollywood hangout Chasen's, which was the place to see and be seen back in the Golden Age. As the story goes, the eponymous child actress was whining for a "grown-up drink," so the bartenders created something non-alcoholic yet fancy for her, with its maraschino cherry and orange slice garnishes perhaps meant to have mimicked the old fashioneds that her mom and dad may have been imbibing.

Time reveals that the story may not be as simple as all that, what with both the Brown Derby (also in Hollywood) and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel claiming to have invented the Shirley Temple as well. Temple herself disclaims any connection with the drink, having told NPR's Scott Simon in a 1986 interview (via Daveland), "Those were created in the probably middle 1930s by the Brown Derby Restaurant in Hollywood and I had nothing to do with it."

Here's what's in a Shirley Temple

The ingredients of a classic Shirley Temple are also somewhat hard to pin down. Tablespoon notes that the original drink was said to contain orange juice as well as ginger ale and grenadine, but that nowadays most bartenders choose to forego the OJ altogether as they feel that an orange slice will provide a sufficiently citrusy note. The recipe Tablespoon provides is an 8:1 ration of ginger ale to grenadine, shaken (or stirred, unless you're making them for James Bond's grandkids) and served on the rocks with a lemon twist, a slice of orange, a maraschino cherry, and a cocktail straw or a swizzle stick. They suggest that you can also substitute lemon-lime soda for all or part of the ginger ale, and you can also "fancy up" your Shirley Temple even more by rubbing the rim of the glass with a little lemon juice and then dipping it in sugar.

Shirley Temples aren't just for kids

Tablespoon also gives several "adult" variations on the Shirley Temple, including a "dirty Shirley," which involves replacing half the soda with one part each of light rum and cherry liqueur, and another that adds about half as much vodka to the drink as there is soda. There's even a version of the cocktail called a Shirley Temple Black (the star's married name), which doctors up the drink with a shot of Johnny Walker Black.

Liquor notes that some craft cocktail bars, even ones that don't admit patrons under 21, have seemingly launched a Shirley Temple revival of sorts, perhaps in response to the sober curious movement. These drinks include such high-end ingredients as house-made sodas and grenadine (from fresh pomegranates, naturally) and Fabbri amarena cherries. If you'd like to create an artisanal Shirley Temple at home, Noble Pig has a recipe which uses ginger beer in place of its sweeter, less flavorful cousin ginger ale, as well as fresh-squeezed lime juice and hibiscus grenadine. (Okay, so their recipe is actually for a Dirty Shirley, but you can leave out the vodka — or not — depending on who'll be drinking it.)

How Shirley Temple really felt about her namesake drink

Not only did Shirley Temple disavow any connection with the drink's genesis, she also actively disliked it, calling it a "saccharine sweet, icky drink" and complaining that "all over the world, I am served that. People think it's funny. I hate them. Too sweet!" (via Daveland). At one point, when someone handed her such a drink, she turned it down by saying, "If you drink that, you're going to get diabetes."

What's more, she even went to court — twice — to prevent two soft drink manufacturers from marketing their versions of the Shirley Temple, or at least from using her name. As The New York Times reported, Ms. Black vowed to "fight it like a tigress," explaining, "All a celebrity has is their name." While the soda manufacturers argued that the term "Shirley Temple" had become a generic term after more than 50 years in common usage, Liquor notes that the courts would ultimately decide in Shirley Temple Black's favor in both of the lawsuits she filed in 1988. These legal victories would not prove to be the final word in the battle for naming rights, however. Today, some six years after Black's death, Amazon is offering no fewer than three different brands of "Shirley Temple" soda — not exactly the way she would have wanted her name to live on after she'd gone.