The History of the White Lady

An article I wrote for Chilled Magazine.

Light and luscious, the White Lady was all the rage in America during the early 20th century. Because this classy cocktail shares a similar make up to other members of the sour family, it’s often referred to as a gin margarita or a gin sidecar.

The White Lady was first shaken up by Scottish barman, Harry Macelhone. He created the cocktail at his own bar, Harry’s New York Bar, in Paris, in 1919. The concoction was made up of 1/6th Brand, 1/6th Crème de Menthe, and 2/3rd Cointreau. In 1930, a famous and well respected American cocktail barman, Harry Craddock, of the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London, had the White Lady’s recipe published in the Savoy Cocktail Book. Craddock listed the drink as a cocktail crafted with dry gin, Cointreau, and lemon juice. His version is accepted as the standard recipe today, and as far as documenting goes, the Savoy Cocktail Book takes credit for the pearly beauty. In the 1930s, the White Lady was favored so much that a pre-bottled version of it was sold.

There are several other early incarnations of a cocktail named the “White Lady” but, according to Tanqueray Global Brand Ambassador, Angus Winchester, “They are generally undrinkable.”

In 1949, another change was made to the rather flexible drink. To add a velvety touch, an egg white was tossed into the mix. The egg white creates a creamy texture and gives a silky appearance, but leaves the other flavors intact.  With this style, it’s preferable to use a champagne saucer because the foam clings to the curves of the glass, adding an even more appealing look. The overall flavor of the classic cocktail is smooth and somewhat citrus-like, with herbal hints from the dry gin. Both versions of the White Lady, with or without the egg white, are acceptable and common in top bars to this very day.

“The White Lady is an incredible aperitif, as the combination of juniper and two citruses makes for a refreshing, crisp cocktail that is both a palate cleanser and appetite stimulant,” Winchester says.  Perfect for sharpening the appetite and easing into dinner, this sipper makes a delectable choice before a meal.

So when you find yourself wanting a drink but don’t want to be knocked out, the White Lady will keep you company. Not only is the queen of cocktails fancy and flavorful, it’s also a breeze to make. Shake it up, pour it in a chilled glass, and sip yourself into an evening of elegance.

Tanqueray White Lady


1.5oz Tanqueray London Dry Gin

.75oz orange liqueur

.75oz lemon juice


Pour all of the ingredients into a shaker, fill with ice, shake and strain into a chilled a coupe glass.

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