The History of the White Lady

The White Lady has undergone a few transformations over the years, but she has never lost her sense of elegance and style. The most modern version includes Cointreau, lemon juice, gin, sugar syrup and an egg white, ensuring that famous cloudy white colour. So where was the first White Lady created?

Who Invented the White Lady?

It is widely accepted that this drink was first created by Harry McElhone in 1919. He was bartending at the Ciro Club in London when he first combined crème de menthe with triple sec and lemon juice. It was a fairly popular drink at the time, but he changed the recipe when he took over his own bar in 1923. The recipe in Harry’s New York Bar swapped the crème de menthe for gin, creating a drink that was far drier in taste and seemed more palatable for his regulars.

In 1930, however, another Harry took over the evolution of the cocktail. Including the drink in the Savoy
Cocktail Book, Harry Craddock added even more gin and the drink became
incredibly in-demand at the American Bar in the Savoy Hotel. Later, the manager
of the bar, Peter Dorelli, adapted the cocktail again, including a small amount
of egg white to make the drink silkier and smoother. The egg is still
considered to be optional by most, but it does finish the cocktail off quite

White Lady Monikers

Despite its fairly short history (as far as classic cocktails go), the White Lady has been known by many names. Whether you order a Delilah, a Kiernander or a Janikedevence, you will essentially be served the exact same drink. The White Lady has also been known as Lillian Forever or a Chelsea Sidecar.

There are few modern variations on the White Lady, although it has been known for some bartenders to
add cream instead of egg white. If using either ingredient, the drink should be
shaken without ice first and then shaken with ice to avoid curdling.

The White Lady is part of a group of drinks known as ‘gin and juice cocktails’. These beverages must
include gin, a sweet juice of some kind, usually citrus and at least one other
ingredient. Other gin and juice cocktails include the Sidecar, the Corpse
Reviver and the Aviation.

More to explore

Bartender's top tip

Shaking is crucial for emulsifying vinaigrettes and cocktails, but not suitable for delicate ingredients that can break apart or become overworked

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