Everyone Seems To Be Drinking “Dirty Shirleys” All Of A Sudden — And After Trying It, I Can Absolutely See Why

·6 min read

It seems like everyone is talking about the Dirty Shirley cocktail — from the New York Times boldly asking if it’s the drink of the summer to more than 8 million people watching #dirtyshirley videos on TikTok. So, of course, I had to try it.

A regular Shirley Temple is a classic, non-alcoholic drink made of light soda or ginger ale, grenadine, and a maraschino cherry — no real fruit here! The drink wasn't a part of my childhood, but it was for many Americans. 

A regular Shirley Temple is a classic, non-alcoholic drink made of light soda or ginger ale, grenadine, and a maraschino cherry — no real fruit here! The drink wasn't a part of my childhood, but it was for many Americans.

Pernell Quilon / Via tiktok.com

The nostalgia and suburban charm of an adult, vodka-infused Shirley Temple is why the Dirty Shirley is having a moment, according to the New York Times.

It's a very simple, easy drink to make. All you need is ice, vodka, grenadine, Sprite (or any lemon-lime soda), and a maraschino cherry on top — the best part!

The writer pictured with the ingredients, with prices listed for each item; all are cheap

And if you don't drink, you can make a regular non-alcoholic Shirley Temple with ginger ale, or tonic water, in place of vodka.

Pernell Quilon

First, you start with an empty glass. A tall glass is best.

author with a tall empty glass

The New York Times recipe calls for a highball glass. I'm sure any glass will do.

Pernell Quilon

Next, fill it to the top with ice. Cubed ice is preferred, but crushed ice works fine too.

author with a glass filled with ice
Pernell Quilon

Fill it with 2 ounces of vodka, whatever kind you've got. I just threw in a full shot glass. You can sub with tonic water if you don't drink.

author pouring vodka into a shot glass
Pernell Quilon

As you can see, a shot glass amount was plenty enough.

The writer holding a glass with ice and vodka, and the vodka fills about half the glass

It was 5 o'clock somewhere, and 10:37 a.m. in Los Angeles.

Pernell Quilon

Then, you'll add 1 ounce of grenadine. I added in just over half of a shot glass. This stuff is sweet!

author adding a shot of grenadine to the drink
Pernell Quilon

Now, you should have a drink with a beautiful red color.

The liquid takes up about the same amount of the glass, but now the bottom half of it has turned red
Pernell Quilon

Next, add Sprite. You can add 8 ounces if you want to measure it out, but I just filled mine to the top.

author with a drink and a sprite can
Pernell Quilon

Adding the Sprite gives it a nice touch.

The drink now takes up the whole glass and has turned mostly red from top to bottom
Pernell Quilon

And finally, my favorite part: drop in a single, ready-to-mingle maraschino cherry.

author dropping in a maraschino cherry to the drink
Pernell Quilon

And voila! You're done! That's the whole recipe. It was such an easy and fun drink to make. Plus, if you already have vodka, the other ingredients don't cost a lot at all.

the dirty shirley drink
Pernell Quilon

So it's fun to make...but how does it taste?

author sitting back with the drink
Pernell Quilon

The subtle carbonated citrus from the lemon-lime soda and the sweet, tart, and fruity taste of the red grenadine syrup arrived at the same time on my tongue. My eyes lit up. I instantly reached my verdict: The Dirty Shirley is delightful and dangerous. It's sweet, but not overpowering — I couldn't even detect the vodka! These are the kinds of cocktails that will leave you with a headache the morning after. But in the moment, it tasted refreshing, fun, and sweet. Y'all...I found my summer cocktail.

The author sipping the drink, then smiling afterward
Pernell Quilon

I've been told my opinions are like tequila and are better taken with several grains of salt, SO I made the drink for 10 of my coworkers. I asked each of them, "Do you agree this is the drink of the summer?" Pink meant yes, yellow meant no.

Colored Post-It notes with feedback; five notes are pink for yes, five yellow for no

One coworker dubbed the Dirty Shirley a "soccer mom spritz" (a good thing) and another said it "could be workshopped." Tough crowd!

Some other comments were that the drink "embraces frivolity," that it brought them "back to drinking a Shirley Temple from Friendly's," and that the drink "should be served poolside," but the hangovers might be brutal.

Pernell Quilon

There was an even split. Half were singing the Dirty Shirley's praises. The other half? Done with her. Was it generational? All the folks who voted against the drink were at least 30 years old...but of the five people who agreed the Dirty Shirley is the drink of the summer, two were Gen Z and three were millennials. So, this drink isn't just for younger folks — it's for folks who know how to have fun, wherever they may be.

author sitting back with the drink and a text conversation on his phone

This is a very biased survey. I know this because of my single year of AP statistics my senior year of high school. But I got more opinions than mine, so sip on that.

Pernell Quilon

Since I'm the author, I'm going to lean on the scale. Y'all, whether you like it or not, the Dirty Shirley is arguably the drink of summer, or at least a drink of summer. She's fun, affordable, quick, unpretentious, and a gorgeous shade of red. You even get a cherry! Stop hating and start sipping.

author with the pros and cons of the drink

It's a fun cocktail you can serve at any party or function. The presentation is cute, and if kids want to participate, there's the original non-alcoholic version — the Shirley Temple! The folklore behind the drink is that the famous child actress would order this drink so she could hang out with adult executives at the bar (yeah, weird on their part).

Pernell Quilon

And if you're looking to remix the drink a bit, try it out with vanilla-infused vodka if you like ice cream floats! Or if you're sweet-conscious, use less grenadine, only a splash of Sprite, and top it off with soda water.

dirty shirley with substituon suggestions

I used Smirnoff's Vanilla Twist vodka to test out the adjustment and it added a sweet richness to the drink. It reminded me of marshmallows!

The Sprite and the grenadine add the most sugar, so adjust those as you'd like if you're not into sweet drinks. Into vodka cranberries? Try out using cherry-flavored sparkling water and cutting out Sprite, then only using a splash of grenadine.

Pernell Quilon

Here's the recipe to make a Dirty Shirley again!

A Dirty Shirley next to a print-out of the recipe, which has details shared earlier in this post

Fill a highball glass with ice, add vodka (or tonic water if you prefer no alcohol), and grenadine. Then, you'll top it off with lemon-lime soda. Garnish with a cherry.

The more you make it, the faster you'll get at it. I made the one I'm drinking while writing this post in 73 seconds.

Pernell Quilon

Try out the Dirty Shirley for yourself and let me know what you think in the comments. Also, shoutout any other cocktails you want me to "investigate." Cheers, y'all!

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting