The White Lady is a classic cocktail invented in the late 1910s. A very citrus-forward and refreshing Gin drink created by Harry MacElhone. MacElhone was a famous bartender, mostly known for his book "The ABC of Mixing Cocktails". But as classic as the cocktail recipe is, ultimately, it was not what MacElhone initially imagined.
Read on to learn more about this classic Gin cocktail and how you can make this smooth drink at home.
Ingredients of the White Lady
The three essential components to making a White Lady cocktail are Gin, Triple Sec, and lemon juice. However, depending on where you look, you will find recipes that incorporate additional ingredients.
But before I get to those, I want to say that the standardized recipe from the IBA only consists of the three initial elements. So by sticking to only those three, you get the classic and official version of the drink.
Now, let's talk about those additional ingredients. The first is egg white, creating a foamy top on your drink. Generally, I am a fan of using egg white in cocktails, especially in Whiskey Sour or Gin Sour. But in my opinion, the White Lady doesn't need it.
Having said that, egg white won't spoil your drink. It will only change the texture to something more creamy and frothy. The taste will stay the same. And if you want a vegan version, replace the egg white with aquafaba.
The second ingredient you will find in many recipes is syrup. And while I understand that some may want to balance the citrus in this drink, I do not recommend it here. Why?
The beauty of cocktails like the White Lady is that one prominently featured taste. It's this blast of citrus that makes the drink uncomparable. And the Triple Sec, an orange liqueur, does a great job marrying together the other ingredients. It makes for a citrusy yet well-balanced cocktail.
How to make this drink
When shaking up a White Lady drink, balance and ratios are the crucial factors. You will notice that the recipes you can find online and in cocktail books often differ slightly. Some are more Gin-forward and call only for a little lemon juice and orange liqueur. Others have higher ratios of the citrus elements and often balance them with syrup.
Our recipe is relatively close to the standardized version by the IBA. It's only a tad bit more lemony. And because we like to keep it classy here, it is also made without egg white and syrup. So grab your cocktail shaker, and make a terrific White Lady.
Harry MacElhone came up with the original White Lady recipe in 1919 when working in London. At Ciro's Club, he mixed up a rather unusual cocktail that then contained crème de menthe, triple sec, and fresh lemon juice. Due to unknown reasons, the recipe changed drastically only a mere ten years later.
It was definitely not due to a shortage in supply for any of the ingredients. Apparently, Harry MacElhone suddenly decided to take his creation to a new level. It happened in 1929 when he was working in his bar in Paris. You may have heard of it before - Harry's New York bar. A place where many mixologists got creative.
Even though it's only one element of the recipe, the resulting change is significant. Instead of crème de menthe, he used Gin. But this switch absolutely helped this drink. The new version is drier and has a way better balance to it.
The White Lady is quite close to some other classic creations. It has similarities to the classic Gin Sour cocktail, only using orange liqueur instead of syrup. Or to the Gin Fizz, which additionally uses a splash of soda water. It's also close to others like the Sidecar. There, the Gin is replaced by Cognac.
- 1 Jigger
- 1 Cocktail Shaker
- 1 Hawthorne Strainer
- 1.5 oz Gin
- 1 oz Triple sec - (I prefer Cointreau)
- 0.75 oz Fresh lemon juice
- Add all three ingredients into your cocktail shaker with plenty of ice.1.5 oz Gin, 1 oz Triple sec, 0.75 oz Fresh lemon juice
- Shake until the drink is well-chilled and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Optionally, you can garnish the drink with a lemon peel. Yet, leave it off if you want to stick to its name and go for elegant white without garnish. It's up to you.