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Dirty Shirley Cocktail Recipe

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.

Dirty Shirley Cocktail with Black Background from Above

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?

Dirty Shirley Cocktail with Black Background and Bowl of Cherries
The best part about crafting Dirty Shirley cocktails at home is that you can add as many maraschino cherries as you please. We like to add three cherries to our Dirty Shirley cocktails.

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

Dirty Shirley Cocktail with White Background from Above
Not surprisingly, the Dirty Shirley’s history is intertwined with the Shirley Temple’s history.

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.

Dirty Shirley Cocktail with Black Background
Shirley Temple may not have invented the Shirley Temple drink but the drink’s name helps keep the late actress’ memory alive.

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

Dirty Shirley Cocktail Ingredients
The only required ingredients in are Dirty Shirley recipe are grenadine syrup, vodka, lemon-lime soda, maraschino cherries and ice (not pictured).

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:

  • Vodka
  • Grenadine
  • Lemon-Lime Soda
  • Ice Cubes
  • Maraschino Cherries (Garnish)
Dirty Shirley Cocktail with Absolut Vodka Bottle
Ironically, clear vodka is what makes a Dirty Shirley dirty.

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

Dirty Shirley Cocktail Mise en Place
Once you organize the necessary ingredients and a few simple bar tools, it’s time to craft a Dirty Shirley cocktail.

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.

Measuring Grenadine for a Dirty Shirley Cocktail
The first step in this Dirty Shirley recipe is to measure grenadine syrup and vodka.

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.

Pouring Vodka into a Dirty Shirley Cocktail
You don’t need a cocktail shaker or mixing glass for this recipe. Like us, you can pour the liquid directly into a glass.

Click here to purchase a Japanese jigger if you don’t have a jigger or want an inexpensive upgrade.

Stirring the grenadine syrup and vodka is an optional step that makes the Dirty Shirley taste better; therefore, we include it in our recipe.

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.

Pouring Soda into a Dirty Shirley Cocktail
You can either measure the lemon lime soda or pour it directly into the glass.

Step 3: Top off the drink with lemon lime soda. You can use 7-Up, Sprite or your favorite brand.

Garnishing a Dirty Shirley Cocktail with Maraschino Cherries
Garnishing the Dirty Shirley is the final step. We like to garnish our Dirty Shirley cocktails with three maraschino cherries.

Step 4: Garnish with one, two or three maraschino cherries.

Dirty Shirley Variations

Crafted Dirty Shirley Cocktail
Will the Dirty Shirley hit your cocktail sweet spot?

The Dirty Shirley just might hit your cocktail sweet spot. If not, here are a few variation which you may prefer:

  • Add a splash of fresh lemon or lime juice to craft a tarter Dirty Shirley cocktail.
  • Replace the lemon-lime soda with club soda or sparkling water to craft a less sweet Dirty Shirley cocktail. As a bonus, this variation has fewer calories.
  • Replace the vodka with dark rum to craft a Shirley Temple Black cocktail.
  • Craft a non-alcoholic Shirley Temple drink with ginger ale, grenadine, lime juice and a maraschino cherry.
  • Craft a non-alcoholic Roy Rogers drink with cola, grenadine and a maraschino cherry.
  • Craft a grown-up Orange Creamsicle with low-fat milk, orange juice, orange triple sec liqueur, orange zest and white chocolate vanilla cream liqueur.

Dirty Shirley Drink Recipe

Dirty Shirley Cocktail with White Background

Dirty Shirley Cocktail

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

The Dirty Shirley cocktail is a grown up version of the Shirley Temple mocktail. It's also incredibly easy to craft at home with just five ingredients including ice.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce grenadine
  • 6 ounces lemon lime soda
  • 3 maraschino cherries
  • ice cubes

Instructions

  1. Fill a highball glass partway with ice cubes.
  2. Pour vodka and grenadine into the glass. Gently stir.
  3. Top off with lemon lime soda.
  4. Garnish with maraschino cherries.

    Notes

    • 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.
    About the Authors

    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.

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