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The White Lady Classic Cocktail Recipe

The White Lady is a classic cocktail created in the early 1900s by bartender Harry MacElhone at Ciro’s Club in London. Though it originally called for crème de menthe as the base spirit, MacElhone toyed with his recipe over the years, finally landing on a gin-based version in 1929, after opening Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.

In what amounts to a gin sidecar—a term that can generally mean a drink made with orange liqueur and lemon—the White Lady can also be seen as a twist on a classic gin sour, which is roughly the same drink but with simple syrup/sugar rather than orange liqueur as the sweetening agent. It’s also perfectly representative of the longstanding bartender tradition of changing a single ingredient to something similar, then making up an entirely new name as to make customers think the cocktail is more complicated than it actually is.

The drink has also inspired offshoots like the Pink Lady, which changes two ingredients, using apple brandy as the base liquor, and grenadine as the sweetening agent. While seemingly a more drastic departure, all these ingredient swaps follow the same basic template of two parts liquor to one part sweet and one part sour—sometimes called the Golden Ratio in cocktails.

Egg white can be included or excluded depending on the ingredients had on hand, or how much someone wants to juggle or clean up egg. The recipe below includes it for a creamier, more silky mouthfeel, but also feel free to omit if you’d prefer a drink with a bit more zest and noticeable acidity. Either way, the White Lady is pure refreshment in a glass.

How to make a White Lady cocktail

Ingredients

2 ounces gin
1 ounce triple sec
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 egg white
Lemon twist, for garnish

Directions

Combine all ingredients except garnish in cocktail shaker without ice. Dry shake—vigorously and without ice—for 30 seconds to emulsify egg white. Add ice and shake an additional 15–20 seconds to chill. Strain into chilled coupe glass and garnish with lemon twist.