A History of Girl Drinks on the Occasion of the Cosmopolitan’s 25th Anniversary

Wine, beer, and other potent potables.
Jan. 21 2013 5:47 AM

Girl Drinks

A history of sweet cocktails for ladies, on the occasion of the Cosmopolitan’s 25th anniversary.

(Continued from Page 1)

1891: The Ladies’ Great Favorite
One part sherry, one part port, “ornament with orange and pineapple, and top it off with ice-cream.” The line from the Ladies’ Great Favorite to the Cheesecake Factory’s Strawberry Creamsicle spiked milkshake runs fairly straight.

1930: The Alexander
Shake 'Em Up
, a cheeky cocktails-and-canapés guide from the speakeasy era, spends a chapter discussing what to mix “for virgins.” The authors specifically mention the Alexander, a gin-and-dairy drink that predates Prohibition but thrived during it for obvious reasons: Your gastrointestinal tract is less likely to revolt against a flood of bathtub gin if you simultaneously coat its lining with sweet cream. In The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, the lovely curmudgeon David Embury insists that if you encounter a member of the Alexander family, you should approach it not as a proper cocktail but rather “a nice mid-afternoon snack in place of a half pound of bonbons.”

1951: The Pink Lady
This sour, classically featuring gin, lemon juice, and grenadine, can be found in the hand of “that nice little girl who works in files,” according to Jack Townsend, a former president of the Bartenders’ Union of New York, in The Bartender’s Book:

Naturally, you never expected to see her at a bar. She gets into one about twice a year, at Christmas time or some other high old time. Just why she picks the Pink Lady for these occasions—since the Lady packs quite a wallop—remains a mystery, even to her perhaps. It’s quite possible she has seen the decorative and innocuous-appearing pink-and-white amalgamation passing on a waiter’s tray and decided, “Hmmm, that couldn’t do me any harm.”

Oh, but it could, especially when prepared according to our tart specifications:


1 ounce gin
1 ounce 100-proof apple brandy
¾ ounce lemon juice
¾ ounce grenadine
1 egg white
Optional garnish: dash of Angostura bitters
Supra-mandatory garnish: 1 brandied cherry

Put the gin, apple brandy, lemon juice, grenadine, and egg white in a shaker. Shake without ice. Add ice and shake again. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish!

If the Pink Lady were a piece of household hardware, she would be a floral-print hammer—but if you use grenadine made the simple way, mixing equal parts sugar and pomegranate juice, then the drink comes out mauve. If you want her to actually be pink, then you need to buy a pomegranate and make grenadine totally from scratch. And, hey, at that point, once you’re getting all Martha Stewart about it, you might as well go for the gusto and prepare raspberry syrup, substituting that for the grenadine. With the leftovers, razzle up two excellent old-school pink drinks—classy like tuxedo-clad flamingos—the Cosmopolitan Daisy and the Maiden’s Blush.

1954: The Lucky Jim
From Google Suggest to Yahoo! Answers and beyond, the Internet is littered with evidence of men whose bouts of girl-drinking provoked identity crises and inspired shame spirals. “Is a whiskey sour a girl’s drink?” “Is a margarita a manly drink?” “Are mojitos gay?

There is apparently a kind of dude who, having enjoyed something other than the beer or whiskey preapproved by his peer group, grows anxious about his masculinity. I’m not going to speculate about the nature of this anxiety. I’m not going to wonder why I’ve tripped across such lines of questioning in forums devoted to bodybuilding, automatic rifles, and professional football. I’m just going to hand this thing over to Kingsley Amis and let you enjoy your Baileys in peace: “Saying and perhaps thinking you like dry drinks, when, in fact, you prefer sweet or sweetish ones, is probably the result of a confused feeling that sweet drinks are ladies’ drinks, perhaps even old ladies’ drinks. Permit me to say that this is rubbish.”

Count on Sir Kingsley for original thinking in this department. His own contribution to the girl-drink cookbook is a stiff vodka martini mellowed with cucumber juice. The Lucky Jim represents a fourth girl-drink category—dumb bland—that tends to go unexamined because it is unlively. He named it for the hero of his first novel, who “would be among the first to appreciate that its apparent mildness might make it an excellent love-philtre to press on shy young ladies, if there are any of these left anywhere in the land.”

1970: The Lemon Drop
By the time that sexual intercourse began in 1963, shy young ladies were indeed hard to find. Many complex cultural forces contributed to the decimation of their ranks, including the introduction of the Pill and the invention of respectable places to wash the Pill down with the Booze.

Considerable credit for the latter development goes to Alan Stillman. In 1965, Stillman was a New York City bachelor living near the Manhattan end of the Queensboro Bridge, a corner of the Upper East Side dense with stewardesses and other eligible lovelies. He wanted to meet his neighbors, and he needed to create a place where they could be met, so he opened a neighborhood joint and, as it happened, a frontier. “Before T.G.I. Friday’s, four single 25-year-old girls were not going out on Friday nights, in public and with each other, to have a good time,” he once told an interviewer. “They weren’t going out with each other to a bar for a casual dinner and drinks because there was no such place for them to go.” Classing up a gin mill with Bentwood chairs and imitation Tiffany lamps—set dressing the part of a homey establishment, as it were—Stillman built the first of the great singles bars.



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