White Lady – Classic Recipe

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White Lady Cocktail
White Lady Cocktail

The History Of The White Lady.

The oldest known White Lady recipe comes from the 1923 Harry MacElhone book “Harry of Ciro’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails,” His recipe is very different from the more popular Savoy recipe. The original White Lady is 1 oz brandy, 1 oz creme de menthe, and 2 oz Cointreau, shaken and strained. This version of the white lady never quite caught on; the more popular version is the Harry Craddock recipe from the Savoy.

A Short History Of The American Bar at the Savoy Hotel In London.

In 1893, The American Bar at the Savoy hotel started serving American-style cocktails in London to the British upper class. The American Bar has always been a high-end bar but what set it on the map was when Harry Craddock became its 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. Still, 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 ending, the hotel realized it should record all of its most famous recipes and the innovations Harry brought to the bar. A year later, they published the Savoy Cocktail Book. Printed in 1934, the Savoy Cocktail Book documents the bar’s 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.

What Does The White Lady Taste Like?

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

Should You Use Cointreau, Triple Sec, Or Curaçao?

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

How To Get Egg White Right In Cocktails.

Cocktails with egg whites are difficult cocktails to get right, and anyone who says otherwise is projecting a false image. Everyone who has made fizzes or sour with egg whites has had one of these pops 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 in 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 work 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 critical is chemistry. You have to get the science right for a cocktail with egg whites to form properly. 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 have made for a long time is using eggs fresh from the fridge. Even if I’m doing a dry shake, I’m still starting 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 at room temperature. The next tip is to use acid. Bakers will use cream of tartar as the acid helps accelerate the denaturing process and beat it. In the cocktail, we use lemon or lime juice. Without using an acid, it is 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 a cocktail with egg whites with just liqueurs for sweeter alone, and they have never formed a good foam. This needs real simple syrup. If you don’t use sugar in your cocktail, the foam will form, but it will collapse back into the liquid 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 makes the water “wetter” and helps keep the suspended air inside from combining into larger bubbles. This helps form a smoother micro bubblehead.

Cocktails 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, there are many tips and tricks for shaking egg foam out there, 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 same. It’s just the nature of the egg sometimes, and I accept it and make it again.

Recipe Resources.

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White Lady Cocktail – Original 1934 Savoy Cocktail Guide Recipe

0 from 0 votes Only logged in users can rate recipes
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.

Notes

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