How The Shirley Temple Became The Grandmother Of All Mocktails

It's hard to imagine Shirley Temple, the adorable Oscar-winning child actor starring in dozens of 1930's films, as a grandmother of anything. She did grow up, becoming a two-time U.S. ambassador and delegate to the United Nations, among other real-life roles, notes Vanity Fair. But in most people's memories, she will always be the tap-dancing cutie, grinning and belting out songs with abandon. In those days, it made perfect sense that someone would name a fancy, pink, sweet nonalcoholic drink in her honor.

The enduring power of the Shirley Temple mocktail is almost as impressive as the lady herself. Even today, almost 100 years later, social media pays homage to the Shirley Temple drink, with Twitter feeds such as abookandabeverage telling users to "Read The Cabin at the End of the World and enjoy some Shirley Temple out of a sippy cup." And countless YouTube videos offer advice on the original recipe or tweaked versions, such as a more natural one from Drinks Made Easy.

What's even more remarkable is that a drink bearing her name would elevate nonalcoholic drinks into their own category. Another star was born — the mocktail — and little Shirley still reigns as the grand dame, aka grandmother, of the entire drink genre.

Birth of the mocktail

Though Shirley Temple was a child when a grownup bartender invented a virgin cocktail in her honor, she hardly stayed quiet on the matter as she grew older. Was the drink part of a carefully concocted marketing scheme, one designed to capitalize on the success of a famous child? Hardly, according to NPR, who calls it the original mocktail, now joined by the equally famous virgin Mary and Roy Rogers drinks.

Since ushering in a genre of nonalcoholic cocktails, the Shirley Temple has been attributed to several venues, including ones in California and Hawaii that claim to have made it for the child actor when she dined with her family. But "grandmother Shirley" herself eventually revealed to NPR that the drink was birthed at Hollywood's Brown Derby Restaurant, home to the original Cobb salad. There was no involvement from her at all — until a soda maker tried to bottle it up and sell it under her name.

Mental Floss tells of two legal skirmishes involving the use of her name on a Shirley Temple liquid product, describing a lawsuit filed by Temple over the use of the name "Shirley T. Sparkling Soda" in 1988. She reportedly told the New York Times that she would "fight like a tigress" to protect her name, citing its importance to celebrities like herself.

Virgin ingredients and Dirty Shirley

Like many mocktail names, which often arise as affectionate homages to a beloved personality or spinoffs from popular alcoholic-version drinks, the Shirley Temple still maintains its sweet innocence. Aside from slight variations, the ingredients remain much the same as when it first arrived: ginger ale, grenadine, and lemon or lime, topped with maraschino cherries, per An earthy upgrade is to use homemade grenadine (pomegranate juice and water), along with fresh-squeezed citrus and premium cherries.

Like Temple herself grew up, living to the respectable age of 85 (via Biography), so did a newer version of her namesake libation: the dirty Shirley. As you might imagine, the recipe for this one contains alcohol, typically vodka, and sometimes employs a more general lemon-lime soda in place of ginger ale.

Yet, the original virgin mocktail still prevails. As Shirley's mother, Gertrude, would say off-camera before each scene, "Sparkle, Shirley, sparkle." So, cheers to the 1930s and to everyone still embracing love-in-a-cup mocktails — the Shirley Temple way.