CLASSIC, SIMPLE & STUNNING. THAT IS THE BEST WAY TO DESCRIBE THE WHITE LADY, A COCKTAIL WITH TRUE, DELICATE BALANCE.
It is so simple it’s almost startling. Gin, Cointreau and fresh lemon juice.
It didn't start out that way. Back in 1919 Harry McElhone of London's Club Ciro Club created the White Lady with equal parts creme de menthe, triple sec, and lemon juice. It wasn't until about 1924 that he swapped out the creme de menthe with gin. Not much is known about why he switched creme de menthe for gin but the results are fantastic.
But no good cocktail is without controversy - Harry Craddock claimed he created the drink at the Savoy Hotel. (A recipe for the drink appears in his classic The Savoy Cocktail Book.) Legend has it that Craddock named the drink after Zelda Fitzgerald and her platinum blonde locks.
Many versions of the White Lady show up throughout history. Different ratio of ingredients. Some more booze forward with gin being the star. Others the sour citrus. Some add egg white, some do not. Some even add cream.
For Knut W. Sundin's, Two Hundred Selected Drinks, he called for equal parts Cointreau, dry gin and lemon juice. Easy enough - and it works to this day.
The trick is to use FRESH LEMON JUICE. I cannot say this enough. The fresher the better, as in, right from the lemon. Anything else is a travesty. Even day old lemon juice can be oxidized and affect the overall taste.
If you taste test and the drink is a bit sour, you can offset it with the Cointreau, but be aware, a little Cointreau goes a long way.
Modern White Lady
1 oz. Gin
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Lemon Juice
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled and properly diluted. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with lemon peel.
J.B. is the founder of 200 Drinks. He spends most of his day working as a design leader at a large technology company but finds time in his schedule to enjoy a drink and write about it. He lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife, son and pup.