This cocktail is a very slight variation on the basic gin sour (gin, sugar, lemon), replacing the simple syrup with triple sec – a drier version of the orange liqueur curacao. Cointreau is probably the best-known triple sec, and as it was first created decades before this cocktail seems to have come about, it may well have been a key ingredient in the drink. Today there are a wide variety of brands of triple sec available, but you could do worse than picking up a bottle of Cointreau.
This drink’s creation is attributed both to Harry MacElhone, of the famous Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, and Harry Craddock, of the equally famous Savoy Cocktail Book. Who really thought it up first? No definitive answer exists, I’m afraid. The likely truth is that neither man was the first to think of combining these three simple ingredients. Cointreau, after all, predates both the book and the bar by more than fifty years. That’s a lot of time for someone to go “hey, I wonder if I could replace the sugar in my gin sour with this …”
Rather than worry about who came up with the drink, let’s focus on what the ingredient swap adds. Triple sec is slightly less sweet than simple syrup, significantly more alcoholic (15-40% versus, well, zero), and brings a pronounced orange aroma to the proceedings. It combines beautifully with gin in this and many other cocktails. The classic sour ratio of two ounces of gin, an ounce of triple sec, and three quarters lemon juice works very well here, providing a balanced, elegant drink in which the subtle nuances of whichever gin you choose to use aren’t overwhelmed. Some people like to add egg white to their sours; when it comes to this particular drink, I’m not some people, but if you want to go for it, don’t let me stop you!
Liquors in parentheses are what I used when I made this recipe, and are included as suggestions.
The White Lady Cocktail Recipe
- Cocktail shaker
- Cocktail Strainer
- Chilled coupe glass
- Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice and shake thoroughly.
- Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. No garnish.