The Dirty Shirley isn’t just a grown up version of the popular Shirley Temple drink. It’s also a refreshing summer cocktail that’s super easy to craft at home in just five minutes.
We may not have grown up when Shirley Temple was a Hollywood darling but we still have fond memories of the drink named in her honor. Just like the drink, our memories are simple and sweet.
When we were young, back in the 1970s, the Shirley Temple drink was something we imbibed at weddings and during family vacations. Crafted with ginger ale, grenadine and lime juice, those special occasion drinks were simultaneously sweet and tart. Plus, they had maraschino cherries added for good measure.
Color us surprised when we heard that a grown up version called the Dirty Shirley is now a hot summer cocktail. Once we got that memo, it didn’t take long before we were sipping Dirty Shirleys at home.
What Is a Dirty Shirley Cocktail?
A Dirty Shirley cocktail is a grown up version of the non-alcoholic Shirley Temple drink.
It’s a simple drink that requires just four ingredients plus ice. Like its inspiration, it’s sweet, refreshing and ridiculously easy to craft without any special equipment.
History of the Dirty Shirley
The history of the Dirty Shirley dates back to the 1930s when bars looked to craft an alternative non-alcoholic drink for kids. The drink, typically made with ginger ale and grenadine, became an immediate hit that has since passed the test of time.
For later generations who may be unfamiliar, Shirley Temple was the IT child movie star of her time. She acted, danced and sang songs like On the Good Ship Lollipop. Her impressive roster of movies includes Heidi, The Little Princess, Bright Eyes and Curly Top.
While it’s crystal clear that Shirley Temple didn’t create the drink named in her honor, nobody knows for sure who actually invented the classic mocktail. Some cocktail historians trace the Shirley Temple’s roots to bartenders at iconic Hollywood bars like Chasen’s and The Brown Derby (both now closed). Others claim it was first served at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki.
At some point, bartenders and home mixologists started playing with the ingredients and adding alcohol to the mix. It’s no dirty secret how the Dirty Shirley was born. It kind of just happened.
Dirty Shirley Drink Ingredients
Good news! You probably already have all of the ingredients necessary to craft a Dirty Shirley at home. If not, you should be able to find the following items at a local market and/or liquor store:
Any vodka should work in this Dirty Shirley recipe. You can use your favorite bottle even it it’s flavored. We choose to use unflavored Absolut vodka produced in Sweden. It has a 40% ABV and mixes well in this and other cocktails
However, we strongly recommend that you use Monin grenadine syrup unless you prefer to make your own grenadine syrup from scratch. The French company doesn’t add any artificial colors or flavors to its bright red pomegranate syrup which makes it better than other commercial grenadine syrups.
Click here to buy a bottle of Monin grenadine syrup from Amazon.
How to Craft a Dirty Shirley
You don’t need any equipment to craft a Dirty Shirley cocktail at home. We use the following basic bar tools in our Dirty Shirley recipe:
You can improvise if you’re missing any of these bar tools. For example, you can use a small angled measuring cup instead of a jigger.
Discover 10 necessary bar tools for lazy mixologists.
Step 1: Measure the vodka and grenadine syrup, immediately pouring each into a highball glass filled partway with ice.
For this step, we use a Japanese jiggerto ensure accurate measurements and avoid spillage.
Click here to purchase a Japanese jigger if you don’t have a jigger or want an inexpensive upgrade.
Step 2: Gently stir the vodka and grenadine syrup. We use a bar spoon but you can use any long spoon in your utensil drawer.
Step 4: Garnish with one, two or three maraschino cherries.
Dirty Shirley Variations
The Dirty Shirley just might hit your cocktail sweet spot. If not, here are a few variation which you may prefer:
Dirty Shirley Drink Recipe
- 2 ounces vodka
- 1 ounce grenadine
- 6 ounces lemon lime soda
- 3 maraschino cherries
- ice cubes
- Fill a highball glass partway with ice cubes.
- Pour vodka and grenadine into the glass. Gently stir.
- Top off with lemon lime soda.
- Garnish with maraschino cherries.
- You can use diet soda if you want to reduce the cocktail's calories.
- You can garnish with a single maraschino cherry instead of three.
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Japanese Jigger - Premium Double Cocktail Jigger, 1oz/2oz made from Stainless Steel 304
2 Pack Ice Cube Trays, Silicone Ice Cube Trays Molds，Ice Cube Tray for Freezer，Cocktail，Easy Release Square Ice Cubes, Reusable & BPA Free
Hiware LZS13B 12 Inches Stainless Steel Mixing Spoon, Spiral Pattern Bar Cocktail Shaker Spoon
Monin - Grenadine Syrup, Delightfully Sweet, Natural Flavors, Great for Cocktails, Mocktails, Sodas, and Smoothies, Vegan, Non-GMO, Gluten-Free (750 Milliliters)
Paksh Novelty Italian Highball Glasses [Set of 6] Clear Heavy Base Tall Bar Glass - Drinking Glasses for Water, Juice, Beer, Wine, Whiskey, and Cocktails | 13 Ounce Cups
Collins Stemless Maraschino Cherries | Popular Garnish for Cocktail Drinks, Desserts, Martinis, Manhattan, Old Fashioned, 10oz
7-Up Lemon Lime Soda, 12 Ounce (12 Cans)
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.