White Lady Cocktail – Original 1934 Savoy Cocktail Guide Recipe

The American Bar at the Savoy Hotel In London

Opened in 1893 The American Bar at the Savoy hotel started serving American style cocktails in London to the British upperclass. The American Bar has always been a high end bar but what really set it on the map was when Harry Craddock became it’s head bartender in the 1920s. Harry Craddock was a British born bartender who immigrated to the United States, eventually becoming a US citizen and head bartender of several high end hotel bars, but Harry found himself out of work with the start of prohibition in 1920. He then immigrated back to England and became head bartender of the Savoy Hotel’s Bar. Harry transformed The American Bar from a high end bar to one of the seminal cocktail bars of the 20th century. As the american prohibition was coming to an end the hotel realized it should record all of its most famous recipes and the innovations Harry brought to the bar and a year later they published the Savoy Cocktail Book. Printed in 1934 The Savoy Cocktail Book documents all of the bars best recipes from the 1890s to the 1930s and stands as the pillar of prohibition-era, European cocktail innovation. If Jerry Thomas’s Bartenders Guide is the best cocktail book the 1800s gave us, then The Savoy Cocktail Book is the best cocktail book of the first half of the 1900s. I don’t think I will ever be able to drink there though. A cocktail cost around $250 there and they have one that’s almost $1000, and I’m not the Amazon guy, so good thing we have their recipe book.

How Does The White Lady Taste

The white lady is an amazing velvety smooth cocktail that taste like a gin lemon meringue. The flavor profile is similar to that of the sidecar or margarita but the egg whites add a wonderful texture and smoothness.

Should you use Cointreau or triple sec

You can use Cointreau or triple sec/curacao/orange liqueur. Technically they are all orange liqueurs and the only reason for the different names is because of history, marketing gimmicks, and brand names. Check out my orange liqueur description for a more detailed history on that. Again you don’t have to use Cointreau, any orange liqueur you like will work. On that note though Cointreau is the best and makes for what I think is a noticeably better cocktail. Only downside to Cointreau is its price tag. Its a little pricier than other brands (around 50 bucks for a liter) but it’s worth it. There have been other really good and pricy orange liqueurs to hit the market in the last few years but Cointreau is still the go to.

The Most Important Ingredient

Cocktails with egg whites are actually difficult cocktails to get right and anyone who says otherwise is projecting a false image. Everyone who has made a fizzes or sour with egg whites has had one of these pop open on them while shaking, only to make a mess. The best advice I can pass on to making any cocktail with egg whites is it comes down to 2 things; Technique and chemistry. A common technique that works very well is the dry shake. A dry shake is shaking all your ingredients together without ice first to make forming the foam easier. The foam will still form with ice but you will end up working twice as hard for half the result if you shake with ice first. The first shake is only about 20-30 seconds of vigorous shaking but this is the part that forms most of your foam. A little tip here is to wrap a kitchen towel around the seal of your shaker because no matter how strong you are or how tight your grip it will pop open a little. as the egg whites unfold they can expand up to 8x their original size, thus increasing the pressure inside the shaker and forcing small amounts of the sugary egg mix to squirt out. Wrapping a small towel around the shaker will catch this and keep things clean.

Next and more important is chemistry. For a cocktail with egg whites to properly foam you have to get the science right. Denaturing/unfolding egg protein into a meringue is more science than brawn and a friend of mine who is a baker once gave me this advice for how she made meringue at the bakery.

  1. Keep it room temperature.
  2. Use an acid to help break the proteins hydrogen bonds and unfold it in addition to beating it.
  3. Use sugar to stabilize the foam from collapsing and to form smaller bubbles.

A mistake I made for a long time is using is using eggs fresh from the fridge. Even if I’m doing a dry shake I’m still starting off with cold ingredients. So take the eggs out and let them come to room temperature first. Cold egg protein is much more stable and difficult to break apart than if it is room temperature. The next tip is to use acid. Bakers will use cream of tartar as the acid helps accelerate the denaturing process along with beating it. In the cocktail we use lemon or lime juice. Without using an acid it is much much harder to form a foam. The last bit of advice is to use sugar to stabilize the foamed protein from collapsing. A sweet liqueur alone isn’t enough. I’ve tried making cocktail with egg whites with just liqueurs for sweeter alone and they have never formed a good foam. This needs actual simple syrup. If you don’t use sugar in your cocktail what will happen is the foam will form but it will collapse back into the liquid-y cocktail just as fast and you will be left with a thin layer of lame bubbles on top. It will still taste the same and be good but that beautiful foam will be gone, and for these drinks the large foam head is the garnish. The sugar also somehow makes the water “wetter” and helps keep the suspended air inside from combining into larger bubbles. This helps form a smoother micro bubble head.

Cocktail with egg whites are some of the most elegant and sublime cocktails but they are not the easiest to make. Eventually you can get to a point where you can make them correctly and consistently but it can take a while and many failed attempts. Hopefully the tips I gave help shorten that journey. Also theres a lot of tips and tricks out there for making eggs foam and I tried to keep mine reasonable and realistic, but see what works for you. I’ve been doing this for a long time and still I have the occasional one that doesn’t foam up well, even though I make them all the exact same. Its just the nature of the egg sometimes and I just accept it and make it again.

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White Lady Cocktail – Original 1934 Savoy Cocktail Guide Recipe

0 from 0 votes
Course: DrinksCuisine: British
Servings

1

servings
Calories

268

kcal
ABV

25%

Total time

3

minutes

Learn how to make the a White Lady.

Ingredients

  • 1 Whole Egg Whites

  • 2/3 oz Lemon Juice

  • 1 oz Orange Liqueur

  • 2 oz Dry Gin

Directions

  • Combine all ingredients in the shaker without ice. Shake dry for 30 second – egg foams better when not cold.
  • Now add ice to the shaker. Vigorously shake again till the shaker is ice cold and frosted.
  • Strain into glass to remove ice shards.

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