Dirty Shirley Drink Recipe

Dirty Shirley Drink Recipe

There’s always one drink that defines summer, a cocktail that boldly catches on as the temperatures warm, popping up in bars and backyard barbecues everywhere. While the espresso martini dominated last summer, things have taken a sweet turn this year. This is the year of the Dirty Shirley.

What is a Dirty Shirley?

While the New York Times made it official, the drink was already circulating widely on Tiktok, with the hashtag #dirtyshirley getting millions of views. The vibrant drink is a boozy take on the Shirley Temple, a childhood favorite featuring lemon-lime soda or ginger ale, grenadine, and maraschino cherries. Add vodka, and you have a Dirty Shirley.

The drink is fun, bubbly, and undeniably sweet. Consider sipping it by the pool, on the beach, at a bonfire—you get the picture. We add optional lime juice, which balances out the flavors a bit and also provide some simple variations for putting your own spin on the drink. Feel free to adjust the ratios and play with the ingredients to make the cocktail perfectly suit your tastes. Just don’t forget the cherries!

A Brief History of the Shirley Temple

Named after the childhood actress, the Shirley Temple is possibly the most famous mocktail there is. Despite its moniker, however, the sweet bubbly beverage had little to do with the famous redhead aside from its color (She once described them as “saccharine” and “icky.”).

The story goes that a bartender at legendary Hollywood restaurant Chasen's made the non-alcoholic drink for the star one night, but there have also been references to another restaurant, Brown Derby, as the original inventor.

Tips for Making the Best Dirty Shirley

Though there are only a handful of ingredients and steps to a Dirty Shirley, there are a few things you can do to make the very best version. Use a good vodka, but since this is a sweet cocktail, there’s no need to break out the top-shelf stuff. A mid-priced bottle, such as Stoli and Tito’s, is best.

As for the mixer, any lemon-lime soda will do, such as Sprite, 7-Up, Sierra Mist, or Bubble Up. Try a craft soda like Jones or Virgil's for a leveled-up experience.

When making the cocktail, adjust the amount of grenadine to taste. The grenadine will add more sweetness and fruitiness and, depending on what brand you use, a little tartness. Finally, give the drink a gentle stir to combine the ingredients before drinking.

“If you want a taste of your childhood but with an adult twist, then this is the cocktail for you! The neutral nature of the vodka allows the original grenadine and soda flavors to shine without being overwhelmed and the lime juice perfectly cuts through any excess sweetness for a more grown-up experience.” —Julia Hartbeck

Dirty Shirley/Tester Image A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces vodka

  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

  • 6 to 8 ounces lemon-lime soda, to taste

  • 1 to 1 1/2 ounces grenadine, to taste

  • 1/2 ounce maraschino cherry syrup from the jar, optional

  • 1 to 2 maraschino cherries, for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients to make a Dirty Shirley

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Add the vodka and lime juice to a tall glass. Top with plenty of ice.

    A glass with lime, vodka, and ice

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Add the lemon-lime soda, then top with grenadine and maraschino cherry syrup, if using. Stir to combine.

    A glass of lime, vodka, soda, and grenadine being stirred

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Taste, adding more soda or grenadine if desired. Garnish with a maraschino cherry or two and serve immediately.

    A Dirty Shirley garnished with two maraschino cherries

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Recipe Variations

  • Swap the lemon-lime soda for ginger ale or tonic for a slightly different flavor.
  • A lemon or citrus-flavored vodka works well in this recipe.
  • For a slightly sweeter cocktail, add a dash or two of the maraschino cherry liquid along with the grenadine.
  • For a less sweet cocktail, swap up to half of the lemon-lime soda for soda water.

How Strong Is a Dirty Shirley?

Thanks to plenty of lemon-lime soda, grenadine, and lime juice, a Dirty Shirley tends to be on the lighter side. If you mix one up using 6 ounces of soda and 1 ounce of grenadine plus 1/2 ounce of maraschino syrup, the cocktail strength is 8% ABV, similar to a strong beer or light wine.

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