Booze | June 10, 2022 6:39 am

How to Get Into the Dirty Shirley Trend This Summer

The Dirty Shirley is the drink of the summer. Here's how to alter the nostalgic favorite for sophisticated sipping this season.

Two Dirty Shirley cocktails in highball glasses on a table
The Dirty Shirley is here for the season. Here's how to do it right.
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In case you haven’t heard, the powers that be at the New York Times have spoken: the Dirty Shirley is officially the drink of the summer. Not unlike the Aperol Spritzes and espresso martinis that came before it, it’s been a bit of a divisive pick. But as someone with the palate of a child and the alcohol dependency of a Real Housewife, I personally feel like I’ve been waiting for this moment my entire life. 

For the uninitiated, a Dirty Shirley is literally just a Shirley Temple with alcohol. “By definition, a Dirty Shirley is a traditional Shirley Temple — ginger ale or lemon-lime soda mixed with grenadine and garnished with a cherry — with a 1.5 oz. pour of vodka or rum,” Brian Stewart, Brand Ambassador for Belvedere vodka, tells InsideHook. 

Like most cocktails, the Dirty Shirley’s origins are somewhat murky, though they’re certainly linked to those of the OG mocktail created and named for the child star in the 1930s — though that origin story, too, has its discrepancies. While former West Hollywood hotspot Chasen’s is often credited as the home of the Shirley Temple, the star herself has claimed the drink originated at the Brown Derby, according to Kyle Robichaux, co-host of the Cocktail Time Machine podcast.

Regardless, the existence of the Dirty Shirley can almost undoubtedly be attributed to the simple fact that if you can put alcohol in something, someone will. As Stewart puts it, “It was only a matter of time before a patron of drinking age sipped a Shirley Temple, raised an eyebrow, waved down their server, and said ‘I’ll have one of these, but can you have Ruben put some vodka in it?’” Who that man was or when he made the fortuitous if slightly off-color decision to turn a mocktail for children into a cocktail for adults remains unclear, but the rest, as they say, is history. 

As for why this mocktail-based cocktail happens to be trending at this particular moment in time, it’s really anyone’s guess. “Drinking, much like fashion, moves in trends,” says Stewart, and for whatever reason, the Dirty Shirley is having its moment. 

Most have attributed the drink’s current wave of popularity to a growing collective nostalgia rooted in a desire to return to simpler times amid the flaming garbage heap that is life on earth in 2022. Between the aftershocks of a lingering COVID-19 pandemic, increased violence, the climate crisis and *gestures vaguely towards the state of the world in general*, most of us are looking for an escape these days, ideally one rooted in comfort and familiarity. And, as Robichaux puts it, “There is no escape more comforting than that of childhood nostalgia.” In other words, where better to drown your sorrows than at the bottom of a beloved drink from your childhood, (but make it alcohol)?

Still, while gleefully sucking down a Shirley Temple at a restaurant may have been all you needed to reach peak fulfillment as a kid, there’s a not insignificant chance your palate may have matured somewhat since you last got down with grenadine. If the thought of getting fucked up on a cocktail of maraschino cherries and Sprite doesn’t quite appeal to your refined boozing sensibilities these days, there are a number of ways to modify the Dirty Shirley for a more elevated drinking experience this summer, without sacrificing the nostalgia.

“It’s a really fun cocktail that can have so many personal variations depending on the drinker,” says Lynnette Pierce, bar manager at Hotel Indigo Seattle Everett Waterfront’s restaurant, Jetty Bar & Grille. “It can be made diet, it can have a squeeze of lime, you can add different flavored vodkas; so many ways to make the drink special to you.”

Over at the Jetty Bar & Grille, for example, Pierce’s team swaps the traditional grenadine for black cherry syrup, and uses rum instead of vodka for a darker, more sophisticated take on the Dirty Shirley. And if you’re looking to cut some of the sweetness, Robichaux recommends using seltzer instead of the traditional lemon-lime soda from the Shirleys of your youth for a lighter, less aggressively sweet alternative. 

Below, Stewart has also shared a handful of Dirty Shirley recipes to help you tailor the drink of the season to your liking. Whether you’re looking for something lighter, less sweet or more elevated, there’s Dirty Shirley out there for you this summer. Stay dirty, my friends. 

Belvedere Dirty Shirley

Ingredients

1 ½ oz. vodka 

½ oz. lemon juice

½ oz. lime juice

¾ oz. grenadine

4 oz. soda water

Directions

Place all ingredients into a cocktail shaker except soda and shake with ice. Strain into a tall glass over fresh ice and top off with soda water. Garnish with Luxardo cherry and mint sprig. 

Classy Shirley

Ingredients

1 oz. vodka

½ oz. lime

½ oz. lemon juice

¾ oz. grenadine 

3 oz. Moet Chandon

Directions

Place all ingredients except for Moet into a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Strain into a tall glass over ice and top with Moet. Garnish with luxardo cherry and edible flower. 

Mrs. Shirley in Provence

Ingredients

1 oz. vodka

½ oz. lime juice

½ oz. lemon juice

½  oz. honey water

¼  oz. Cherry Heering

3 oz. Moet Chandon

1 egg white

Directions

Place all ingredients except for Moet into a cocktail shaker and shake without ice. Then add ice and shake till cold. Strain and fine strain into a Collins glass without ice and top off with very cold Moet. Garnish with a fresh cherry.