Bitter White Lady

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. What with all the racial tension dominating the news, the apparent capitulation of Mr. Bernie Sanders to the political machine, and my recent failure to land that job I was hoping for, you probably think I’ve gone off the deep end.  Not so, my friends! This is just happens to be a pleasantly bitter twist on an old classic, the White Lady. The fact that I may (or may not) have particular reason to feel a little bitter at the moment is pure coincidence.

The original White Lady, created back in 1919 by a bartender named Harry MacElhone in London, was a sickly sweet number that included Creme de Menthe and is hardly worth our attention.  You can read all about the drink’s colorful history and some variations that sound rather tasty in this Esquire article by David Wondrich.  I stuck with the way the drink was recreated in 1929 and the way I believe it is normally done today:

  • 2 ounces gin, preferably a dry gin
  • 1/2 ounce Cointreau (or Triple Sec if that’s what you have)
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 egg white (preferably from a medium, not large, egg)

You can create the drink by throwing all your ingredients into a shaker full of ice and giving a it a really good shake, then pour into a martini glass.  But as the experts know, when you do that, you fail to achieve a nice foamy meringue with the egg white and a lack of emulsion.  You can see the poor result in my picture because the drink isn’t supposed to separate like that. Still, it tasted lovely, silky, a perfectly balanced combination of sweet & sour.

The trick to getting the ingredients to emulsify properly is to dry shake it first. Apparently the dry shake can result in some leakage from your shaker so be sure to hold on tight and and don’t shake the heck out it, just do it long enough to get the foam you’re looking for.  Then fill your container with ice and give it nice shake until frost starts to appear on the outside.  I’ve also read that you can dry shake the egg white separately, then add the rest of the ingredients, shake again, then add the ice, and shake for the last time.  Sounds like a lot of work but I’ll try it and let you know what works best.

Lastly, add a few drops of Angostura bitters to the top.  Don’t do what I did and shake the bitters out all over the tablecloth or you might end up with a nasty stain.  Or perhaps that mistake created a fitting ending to this particular endeavor, a reminder that life isn’t always fair, that you need to stay mindful of what you are doing, and to keep on trying to make it just a little bit better.


7/14/2016 Update: As predicted, the dry shake did in fact result in a little leakage from the mixer but only after I added the remaining ingredients to the already foamy egg white. But boy was it worth it! Everything emulsified perfectly and I am right now enjoying the results.  Well, technically I’m enjoying a different drink, called a Boxcar, which is made by simply substituting lime juice for lemon and adding a sugared rim.


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