The Dirty Shirley Is Primed To Be the Most Popular Cocktail of the Summer

We’re already grabbing the maraschino cherries. 

vodka cherry limeade
Photo: Antonis Achilleos; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer

Growing up, it was always a special occasion when you were allowed to order a Shirley Temple at the restaurant. You could see the bubbly, bright-red glass coming from a mile away, and it somehow felt like you were breaking the rules, even though the concoction only consists of Sprite, grenadine, and a cocktail stem stocked with maraschino cherries that would double as a snack. (It has often been associated with 1930s child actress Shirley Temple Black, but she's denied any connection to the creation of the recipe.)

Now, the nostalgic drink is back with a twist as the ultimate cocktail of the summer.

What Is a Dirty Shirley?

The Dirty Shirley was eventually invented to take the innocent childhood drink and turn it into an adult beverage with the addition of a shot of vodka to the original recipe. It's full of personality, sweet almost to the point of being overkill (which the booze helps to tone down), and is somehow wildly refreshing for summertime. Consider it the opposite of a plain cocktail, such as a vodka soda, which admittedly can be a bit sad up against more fruity and fun options.

We're here to put it as a contender for your next Southern porch cocktail—alongside our beloved Ranch Water for tequila lovers, of course. The fizzy carbonation of the Sprite and saccharine sweetness of the grenadine make the perfect smoke and mirrors for a gracious pour of liquor, and the cocktail is easy enough to craft yourself. Since coming back on trend majorly ahead of summer 2022, the question is, why now?

Many are attributing the rising popularity of the cocktail to how excited people are to be able to enjoy the season with friends and family this year, particularly after a few years of uncertainty. It's driven by the desire to feel like a kid again in some ways, accentuated by the fact that people have gotten tired of "boring" cocktails. In other words, it's time for something that evokes cheerful memories and feels like a party in a cup. The Dirty Shirley does that and then some.

While you can expect to see variations of the retro drink on cocktail menus, you can also follow the ratio below to make it at home. (Make sure to add extra cherries.)

Dirty Shirley Recipe

8 ounces Sprite or lemon-lime soda of your choosing
1 ounce grenadine syrup
1.5 ounces vodka (or 1 shot)
Maraschino cherries for garnish

Instructions: Put ice in a highball glass. Add grenadine syrup and vodka. Top with lemon-lime soda. Stir if desired. Garnish with maraschino cherries. If looking for a big-batch recipe, find a worthy sibling in our Vodka Cherry Limeade.

We practically already feel transported back to a plate of chicken fingers while sitting in a leather booth with our parents. Can we go back?

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