The name may not inspire you, but this drink actually surprised me. If you dig around in old cocktail books for this recipe you find that they are all different. Flipping through the pages of the Savoy, for example, you find a recipe that lacks the Applejack and has no citrus. It doesn’t sound like something I want to try. You can find versions that add brandy to the mix and even some with cream. One might specify lemon while another will call for lime. It seems that darn near anything that had a light pink hue was once called a Pink Lady—a name you could just pass by thinking it’s a girlie drink before you started comparing vintage recipes. Even Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh goes to great lengths in his Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails to avoid revealing the name of this drink until you turn the page. But looking at Haigh’s ingredients I figured I’d give his version a go.
It was probably the Applejack which sometimes brings an unexpected level of complexity to drinks that piqued my curiosity. Dr. Cocktail hasn’t let me down before, but then I noticed his recipe calls for the juice of half of a lemon. That’s not exactly a precise amount. It can be frustrating to run across an ingredient specified this way instead of a straight measurement, but instead of getting bent out of shape about it, I decided to embrace “random flexibility” which can sometimes translate into serendipity. I used half of a smallish lemon and measured the juice! It came to just over one half ounce which is what I listed below. You get the best of both worlds.
1.5 oz gin
.5 oz Applejack
.5 oz lemon juice
1 egg white
2 dashes grenadine
Add ingredients to a shaker and seal. Shake without ice for 15 seconds, open, add ice and shake again to chill. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.
The first thing I noticed was that this isn’t a sweet drink. And yet, it’s not really all that sour either. With only a couple dashes of homemade grenadine, I suppose I was expecting more of the acid to dominate, but then I remembered the Applejack. I couldn’t really find a distinct apple flavor, but there was something in the background that was keeping the lemon from getting out of control.
Then I was hit with floral aromas and singing botanical notes from the gin. I used Beefeater and each sip provided a platform to showcase the base spirit. This was a reward I hadn’t expected. It wasn’t piney juniper I was sensing. It was more floral. Even my two dashes of grenadine with its kiss of orange flower water was playing a role. I wouldn’t have minded just a little more of that, but I would want to test this theory to ensure any added sweetness wouldn’t undermine the flavor of the gin. The egg white worked perfectly to uplift the aromas. I didn’t sense any eggy smells and the texture was silky smooth. In the end, this drink was an unexpected success. I’d be curious how others feel about this version of the Pink Lady. Is it a lady’s drink? I think you could serve this to anyone and make them very happy!