Valentine's Day

Pink Lady Recipe (and a Boozy Valentine from Satchmo) Straight Up Cocktails and Spirits

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Looking for an sweet, old-fashioned way to toast Valentine’s Day this year? Why not do it 1930s style, with this old-school cocktail that was all the rage among all the stylish ladies of the day? (And if you scroll down, there’s a little musical treat served up for you by Louis Armstrong as a chaser too.)

I was recently inspired to mix up a Pink Lady cocktail after watching an elegant – and intermittently invisible – Constance Bennett sip one in that great screwball comedy classic, Topper (1937). While visiting a gentleman unchaperoned in his hotel room (hey, it’s all on the up-and-up – she’s a ghost), Constance gives a suspicious house detective a run for his money between cigarettes and drinks.

Frothy, pink, and a sassy mixture of sour and sweet, this gin-based tipple features two ingredients that were fashionable in 1930s cocktail recipes: egg whites and grenadine. Favored by stylish, nightclub-hopping women, you might even say the Pink Lady was the Cosmopolitan of its time.

Since then, this blush-colored drink’s gotten a kind of a bad rap. Snubbed by men and women alike (maybe it’s her frilly name?), our Lady fell out of style sometime during the second half of the 20th Century, and never quite found her stride again.

But I say we woo her back this Valentine’s Day. It’s really just a matter of finding the right recipe. Here’s a beautifully balanced version with a squeeze of lemon juice and a warm kiss of applejack to give our girl some extra sexy zip:

Pink Lady (adapted from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh)
makes one cocktail

1 1/2 ounce gin
1/2 ounce applejack or apple brandy
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 egg white*
2 liberal dashes of grenadine syrup (approx. 1/4 ounce total)
Optional garnish: Maraschino cherry

Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for about 30 seconds and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

*If egg whites faze you, you can leave this one out, though do I encourage you to give the idea a fair shake. The egg doesn’t affect the flavor of the drink, but does gives it a luxuriously frothy meringue-like texture. (You can read more about egg white cocktails here.)

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Wait, there’s just one more thing I’d like to show you while you’re in a romancey, 1930s mood: This sweet 1938 Valentine from Louis Armstrong.

Well, “that’s all there is. There isn’t any more.” (Unless, that is, you’d like to drop by Louis’ kitchen.) Hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day, however you choose to toast it.

Nora Maynard is a longtime home mixologist and an occasional instructor at NYC’s Astor Center. She is a contributor to The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries and is the recipient of the American Egg Board Fellowship in culinary writing at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. She previously covered food and drink in film at The Kitchn in her weekly column, The Celluloid Pantry.


A Bouquet of 12 Valentine’s Day Cocktails

(Images: Nora Maynard)