The Pink Lady, similar to many cocktails originating from the Prohibition era, carries an elusive history. Its creation likely emerged as a remedy for the prevalence of cheap and subpar gin during that period. To mask the unpalatable taste of the inferior alcohols available, additional ingredients such as lemon juice, brandy, and grenadine were incorporated into the blend. The Pink Lady swiftly gained popularity among high-society women from the 1930s to the 1950s, earning a reputation as a favoured choice among “young women.”
Solidifying its image as a stereotypically feminine drink, the Pink Lady first found mention in Jack Townsend's 1951 book, The Bartender’s Book. Townsend, the president of New York’s bartender’s union, perpetuated gender stereotypes as he described the typical Pink Lady drinker, suggesting that she was a courteous yet seemingly timid office worker who made rare appearances at bars, typically around Christmas or other festive occasions. Despite the sexist undertones, Townsend acknowledged the cocktail's potency, noting that the choice of the Pink Lady for such occasions, considering its strength, remained a mystery, even to the drinker herself.
Although the sentiments expressed in those statements may be dated, the timeless charm of the grenadine-infused twist on a Gin Sour has remained. This sustained popularity is owed to a meticulous blend of potent ingredients and complementary flavours. The herbaceous undertones of gin harmonise and the astringence of lemon juice, along with a splash of applejack, or apple brandy, amplifies the fruity nuances of grenadine. This is what lends the cocktail its character. The inclusion of grenadine serves a dual role — that of sweetening the cocktail and providing the characteristic hue. Finally, incorporating an egg white, shaken into the mixture, lends a velvety texture and a milky froth on top, creating a stunning visual spectacle in pink and white.
Another possible heritage of this cocktail may be traced back to the early American actress Hazel Dawn (1890-1988). Dawn’s signature role was of the central character (the Pink Lady) in Ivan Caryll’s 1911 Broadway production titled The Pink Lady. The blockbuster musical comedy not only brought glory to, but also bolstered Dawn’s career into a full-fledged film actress, who later worked in 15 feature films. Yet, Dawn was always recognised as “The Pink Lady.”
When making a Pink Lady cocktail, one needs to choose premium ingredients like a quality London Dry gin and a craft grenadine (creating a personal blend for an added artisanal touch is always an option). For cocktails featuring egg whites, including the Pink Lady, it's recommended to use pasteurised eggs. A crucial step involves dry-shaking the ingredients initially without ice. This method aids in emulsifying the egg whites, resulting in a smoother and silkier texture for the finished cocktail.
Even though the drink might resemble a strawberry milkshake served in a fancy glass, the potency of the drink is no child’s play.
Add all the ingredients in a shaker and shake well with ice.
Double strain into a coupe.