It’s finally come to this. The bartending community spent years arguing about Espresso Martini specs and Aperol Spritz garnishes. We put every classic cocktail on tap or in a frozen drink machine. We are ready for summer; for hot, late nights stirring impeccable Martinis and shaking glorious Daiquiris for all who drink in front of us. But that’s not what the drinking public wants this season, this first summer where the energy has begun to finally shift to a post-pandemic era. We’re ready to deliver the most delicious, fastest, tastiest drinks anyone has ever tasted, but all the old Gen Zers and young millennials want is a God damned Shirley Temple spiked with vodka!
I have become Abe Simpson — “Old Man Yells at Cloud” — getting angry at these kids for having too much fun with their new drink, but the Dirty Shirley is a menace. We worked too hard making real cocktails scalable and accessible to have to worry about running out of grenadine and neon cherries on a Saturday night. The thing is, bartenders can get on board with a simple drink as long as it’s balanced. We love low-effort Palomas — just tequila and Squirt, maybe with a squeeze of lime — because the thing tastes good. Our new friend Shirley takes sweet Sprite and tries to balance it with more sweetness in the form of grenadine. Vodka helps some by adding body and alcohol heat to tame the sugar rush, but this is a drink for hummingbirds, not adult humans.
All of that said, the Dirty Shirley is not unsalvageable. If you were planning to serve Dirty Shirleys at your next house party, you don’t have to toss all your mise en place; just respect your friends and yourself enough to pick up a few more ingredients. Make the Shirley Spritz instead. All our friends are present and accounted for, but gentle bitterness and complexity from Lillet Rosé and a burst of acid from Champagne make this a playful nod to the original while saving you the indignity.
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- 1 ounce vodka (I like a wheat vodka like Absolut in this application)
- 1 ounce Lillet Rosé
- ¼ ounce grenadine
- 2 ounces ginger ale (or Sprite, but ginger ale adds a little more oomph)
- 2 ounces Champagne (any good sparkling wine will do, I used G.H. Mumm)
- Build all ingredients in an ice-filled wine glass.
- Garnish with an orange slice and if you must, a neon cherry.