Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Happy Hour: Pink Lady

The Pink Lady, a classic cocktail coming to us from decades gone by, is indisputably one for the ladies. Maybe think of Mamie Eisenhower and a soiree at the British embassy circa 1950s. To order a Pink Lady would be the ne plus ultra of sophistication in such a setting. The drink pre-dates this era where it probably had its zenith, however. Here's a recipe for the Pink Lady from Oscar Haimo's 1946 edition of Cocktail and Wine Digest:

Our choice to feature the Pink Lady this Friday not only pays tribute to this worthy drink, but also affords us an opportunity to discuss its most controversial ingredient, the egg white. Egg whites have been coming back to popular awareness as vintage cocktails have been revived. The Pink Lady is one of the classics that uses egg whites. Simply put, you add the egg white to the mix just like any other ingredient. Yes, let's admit it, it's kind of gross going in. You might not think anything of handling eggs to make breakfast or in baking, but adding it to a drink is jarring if you're not used to it. Also, people would justifiably be concerned about health risks. Nowadays, there are pasteurized egg whites available if the health risk is a deal-breaker. Frankly, we have never had a problem with the health risk, which is statistically non-existent. Once the egg white is in the shaker, along with the other ingredients, and the ice is added, the key thing is to shake like hell. Really, shake. When you pour, you notice something magical has happened! It pours out frothy and silky. The egg white has whipped into kind of an instant meringue-like substance that adds body and lift to the drink. Try it, and you'll see why egg whites are an ingredient in so many classic drinks. Now let's talk about some of the other ingredients -- here's a recipe from our circa-1930s edition of Mohawk's "Recipes for Mixed Drinks":

In comparing these two recipes, first we should clarify the measurements. Going back to the previous recipe, by a "dash" they mean 1/6 of a teaspoon. So, essentially, they call for just over half a teaspoon of grenadine and applejack (a kind of apple brandy), plus the egg white, gin, and lemon juice. Here, in this second recipe, their "jigger" is 1 ounce, and a "dash" is 5 drops (whatever that means). And, interestingly, they don't call for an egg white at all. Otherwise, except for the lemon juice as opposed to lime juice, the ingredients remain the same, albeit in significantly different proportions. By way of further comparison, here is a recipe from the 1934 edition of "The Drink Master":

Unfortunately, they don't specify what they mean when they use the term "jigger", but it is fair to presume that they mean 1.5 ounces. They omit the applejack and citrus (lemon or lime juice) altogether, and add a bit of heavy cream. Also, they call for significantly more grenadine than the others, which is completely understandable if you're working with real grenadine syrup. Unlike Rose's grenadine, which is artificially dyed red, real grenadine, made with pomegranate juice, is red, but only faintly lends the necessary pink hue. So, the full jigger of grenadine makes sense. What's funny is that this recipe is supposed to serve four people. Oh, those old time people! It was the Depression, we suppose . . . . This recipe, however, is the perfect segue into what is probably the standard and classic 1950s era version of the drink, which comes from the 1948 edition of "Fleishmann's Mixer's Manual":

Something that is special about cocktails is that they often spark memories of particular people and moments, often long past. For us, the Pink Lady holds a sentimental pedigree for J from a time when he worked at a retirement community while in college, and the Pink Lady was the "usual" for a few of the ladies at the Friday afternoon cocktail hour. They truly would have been of that era of the late 40s and the 50s, and they carried this drink with them into the dawn of the 21st century. The drink has languished a bit since this golden era of cocktails, but here's our effort to bring it into people's minds again! Cheers!

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