The other night at work, I watched as a fellow server carried a tray of cocktails to one of his tables. On that tray were three beverages known as Shirley Temples.
As he passed me, I commented with mock indignance, "Poor Jane Withers, no one ever named a drink after her. It's always Shirley, Shirley, Shirley."
Which was exactly what was happening as I spoke the words. One Shirley, two Shirley, three Shirleys down...
So I resolved then and there to create a drink in Jane Withers' honor to make up for nearly seven decades-worth of slight.
For those of you not well-versed in Depression-Era (the 1930's version, not the present one) pop culture, Jane Withers gained fame as Shirley Temple's nemesis in a film or two, most notably in Bright Eyes. Meaner, bigger, and less endearing, she was still entertaining enough to hold her own against Miss Temple. And if I have to explain to you who Shirley Temple is, I am going to cry.
Just watch and you'll see what I mean:
When I got home, I thought about what to make and came up blank. Who even remembers Jane Withers anymore, except me, I mean? Should I just simply do a take-off of a Shirley Temple? Would I add bitters? Make it taller? I was frustrated. There is little pay-off in naming anything after a child who lived her early years in Miss Temple's enormous career shadow.
I needed a drink.
And, suddenly, there was the answer. I decided then and there to forget all about Miss Withers and create an adult beverage in honor of the infinitely more famous Miss Temple. I know what you're thinking-- I'm a star-(expletive)er.
Well, I guess you're right. I am a star-(expletive)er (never, mind you, in a literal sense). And why not? Shirley Temple the mega-child star transitioned successfully into adulthood as Shirley Temple Black-- wife, mother, representative to the United Nations General Assembly (Nixon), the first female Chief of Protocol of the United States (Carter), and U.S. Ambassador to both Ghana (Ford) and Czechoslovakia (Bush the Elder). If anyone has earned a good, stiff drink, it is she.
Shirley Temple Black
The Shirley Temple is far-and-away the most popular "kiddie cocktail" in the world-- fitting that it was named for the most popular child actor to have ever existed.
The original Shirley Temple drink was, as one rumor has it, created by a bartender at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu in the 1930's-- a place Miss Temple visited with her family many times.
It is a non-alcoholic beverage made with ginger ale or some sort of lemon-lime soda, grenadine syrup, a garnish of maraschino cherries and a slice of orange. The Canadians love to add a splash of orange juice, and so do I-- it just makes the thing that much more wholesome, which is something Canadians know all about. After all, they did send us the original America's Sweetheart, Mary Pickford. Miss Pickford, if you didn't know, served as the hairstyle inspiration for Miss Temple. No Pickford, no Curly Top.
The whole notion of kiddie cocktails centers around their ability to allow children to participate somewhat benignly in adult cocktail culture-- preparing them in a sense for their futures as alcohol-swigging grown-ups to whom they look up, both physically and morally.
Maybe they're not so benign, after all.
The idea of the Shirley Temple Black is entirely upside down. It is a drink that allows me to mix and mingle with the wee 'uns from time to time without having them point at my Manhattan and ask what's in it. With an innocent-looking, yet boozy Shirley Temple Black, I can gently tone down those shrieks of bouncy castle delight, or steel myself for the twenty-seventh consecutive screening of Thomas the Tank Engine more or less unnoticed.
At the next children's party I am obliged to attend, when the host or hostess asks me what I'm having, you know my answer's going to be:
"I'll have a Shirley Temple, and make it Black."
Makes One Deceptive Little Cocktail
1 ounce white rum
1/2 ounce Maraschino liqueur
A splash of grenadine
A splash of fresh orange juice
Orange zest or a slice of orange for garnish.
Fill a highball or double old fashioned glass with crushed ice. Pour in rum, maraschino liqueur, grenadine, and splash of orange juice. Fill to near the top, but not brimming (remember, there are children present whose motor skills aren't yet finely tuned) with Ginger Beer and garnish with orange.
Drink immediately to bring your own motor skills closer the the level of the precious little ones.
Variation: The Jane Withers
Just like a Roy Rogers is the classic cola-based alter ego of a Shirley Temple, I felt the Shirley Temple Black was in need of a foil. Feeling guilty that I was turning away from the woman I had originally intended to honor, my friend Rebecca suggested this drink might be delicious with a slug of rye instead of rum.
Of course she would say that-- her boyfriend is an amazing mixologist.
So here you go, Miss Withers-- a drink created especially for you:
The Jane Withers
It's kickier than a Shirley Temple Black, and guaranteed to unclog your pipes faster than Josephine the Plumber.
To make a Jane Withers, simply substitute rye for rum.
And we're done. I hope everybody's happy.