Say what you like about Academy Awards, Nobel prizes, Victoria Crosses and grand slams, the true mark of having burrowed into the public imagination is having a drink named after you.
Of course, it helps if people remember the drink. There are any number of cocktails named after famous people – the David Bowie (chocolate liqueur and bourbon), the Joan Collins (vodka, grapefruit, sugar and soda water), the Jean Harlow (light rum and sweet vermouth) – that rarely, if ever, see the light of day. Which is what makes the Shirley Temple, named after the child star who died this month, so legendary.
Not only does the Shirley Temple live on, 80 years or so since it was first concocted for underaged superstar Shirley (at the Brown Derby on Wiltshire, or Chasen’s in Beverly Hills, or the Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki, depending on whose story you believe), but it does so without any help from booze and with most people not knowing exactly what’s in it. This sweet, pink mixture of ginger ale and grenadine, served in a glass full of ice and topped with a maraschino cherry, is the queen of mocktails.
Mocktails are treated with a certain amount of derision, which is a fair enough default setting, especially if they’re of the unimaginative sort that take a perfectly good cocktail – a bloody mary or a margarita, for example – and simply leave out the alcohol. A similarly hamfisted approach is to make overly colourful, sickly sweet concoctions, bristling with a thousand garnishes as if all the colour, movement and sugar will keep you from noticing the lack of booze. But it needn’t be this way.
To make a mocktail worth drinking by an adult, it’s best to keep it thirst-quenching with some citric sharpness or bitterness in the mix. Tonic water, bitters, fresh citrus juices, syrups infused with botanicals such as juniper, pomegranate juice, soda and mineral water, even products such as verjuice and good-quality chardonnay vinegar (such as Spain’s Forum) can make drinks that are sophisticated rather than embarrassingly childish.
Infused syrups are probably the mocktail makers’ best friend. You make these by heating a simple sugar syrup (usually one part sugar to one part water) and infusing it with anything from herbs and flowers to citrus, ginger, chilli, vanilla or even tea.
Best of all, these less flashy, more adult mocktails will all easily take a shot of alcohol if so required, something that Shirley Temple herself worked out after she reached drinking age. To the mocktail named for her, she would either substitute alcoholic ginger beer for the ginger ale or she would add a shot of dark rum, naming the drink the Shirley Temple Black. Here’s to Shirley.
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