The origins of the Pink Lady are generally unknown, and the ingredients have varied since its introduction around the turn of the 20th century. However, it’s considered a classic in the pantheon of egg-white cocktails. The vibrant color and foamy white head create an eye-catching drink, while its signature tartness and relative lack of sugar set it apart from other more well-known, pink-hued creations.
The creator is often said to be Elsie de Wolfe. In addition to being an actress and author, she’s cited as America’s first professional interior designer. De Wolfe earned renown for pioneering a movement that advocated for innovative, lighter design in response to the heavy Victorian styles of the time.
While it’s hard to know if de Wolfe’s creation is exactly what became the Pink Lady we know today, the drink’s refreshing profile certainly seems to fit the designer’s aesthetic.
Early recipes include some combination of gin and grenadine, while egg white seems to appear and vanish based on the author and tastes of the time. However, the addition of lemon juice and applejack (apple brandy) solidified this drink’s place in the history of cocktails.
Lemon offsets grenadine’s sweetness, while applejack lends fruit-forward depth that complements the gin’s botanicals and creates a double-spirit base.
The Pink Lady was maligned by many from 1930 through the ’60s. It was considered a “women’s” drink, not to be taken seriously by the predominantly male cocktail critics of the time.
Ironically, the ingredients are strikingly similar to revered drinks like the White Lady, invented primarily by bartending legend Harry McElhone of London’s Ciro Club and Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, as well as the Clover Club cocktail, created by a Philadelphia men’s club of the same name.
Regardless of trends and gender biases, the Pink Lady has persevered for more than a century. It remains an impeccable and tasty drink that combines tartness and body with a heady punch of alcohol. Here’s how to make one.
- 1½ ounce gin
- ½ ounce applejack
- ¼ ounce grenadine
- ¾ ounce lemon juice
- 1 egg white
- Apple slice or cherry, for garnish
In cocktail shaker without ice, combine all ingredients, except garnish. Dry shake vigorously for at least 20 seconds, or until egg is fully beaten and incorporated into drink. Add ice, and shake again for 10–15 seconds to chill. Strain into chilled coupe or martini glass. Garnish with apple slice or cherry, if desired.