The White Lady goes by many names: Chelsea Sidecar, Delilah, etc. She is a form of Sidecar using gin instead of brandy, and two famous bartenders claim the honor of having invented her.
White Lady Origins
This cocktail may have been invented by Harry Craddock, bartender at The American Bar at the Savoy. His original recipe for something that is mostly like this drink was printed in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book. In it, he calls for fresh lemon juice, gin, egg white, and orange liqueur to be served in a Martini glass. According to the book, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famously platinum blonde wife enjoyed the creation, and it was named after her.
However, Harry MacElhone from Dundee also claims to be the brain behind this drink, and his claim at least has the merit of being a lot earlier. In 1919, he was working at London’s Ciro’s Club and made something much like the Delilah except for one small (and by small, we mean giant) detail: instead of using gin, it used crème de menthe.
Most of us who have ever had crème de menthe can testify that when you swap it for gin, you’ve got something entirely different. According to MacElhone, he was working at Harry’s New York bar in Paris later on when it occurred to him to swap the crème de menthe for gin.
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A Lady of Fame
Whoever was the originator of this fine drink, it has been appreciated by drinkers ever since. Famed comedy duo Laurel and Hardy pronounced it their favorite, and in The Looking Glass War by John Le Carré, his spy protagonist has a particular penchant for this drink despite its reputation as “feminine” and is constantly attempting to get other agents to try one.
How to Make It: The Original
- 1.5 ounces of a London dry gin
- .75 ounce of Triple Sec
- .75 ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Dash of sugar syrup (optional)
You’ll notice that the original recipe has no egg white in it, and that’s because neither Craddock’s nor MacElhone’s original recipes included it. To put this together, simply add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice, shake, and strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a lemon peel if desired. The reason for the optional sugar syrup is that today’s Triple Sec is actually much drier than that used in the early 20th century, so the taste won’t be as authentic without a little sweetener.
How to Make It: The Popular Version
- 2 oz dry gin
- .5 oz Triple Sec or Cointreau
- .5 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1 egg white
Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker without ice and dry shake. Then add ice and shake again until chilled. Strain and serve in a chilled cocktail glass. Modern versions tend to use sweeter Cointreau, which means you can skip the sugar. If you’re worried about raw egg whites, be sure to use free-range chicken eggs from a known and trusted source. With or without the egg white, though, you’ll enjoy this refreshing delight.