The History of the Shirley Temple

There are two simple ingredients in a Shirley Temple, and neither of them have alcohol. (Photo: Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock)

Non-alcoholic cocktails are having their day, and I would love to see today's well-balanced, zero-proof cocktails stick around and be more than simply a quick trend. These booze-free drinks can thank the Shirley Temple for leading the way. While not particularly balanced — it's usually horribly cloying — the Shirley Temple has been around for a long time, delighting kids who want to think they're drinking something "grown-up" and appeasing adults who are abstaining for a variety of reasons.

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The name of course, comes from the actress Shirley Temple, who as a child delighted moviegoers with her singing and dancing and as an adult was a United States ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. How did the drink come to be named after her? There are a few origin stories of the now-famous cocktail.

Wanting a grown-up drink

Shirley Temple
This sweet face was the inspiration for the first 'mocktail.'. (Photo: General Photographic Agency/Stringer/Getty Images)

One theory, shared by Newsweek, is that a bartender at the famous Hollywood restaurant Chasen's created the drink when the child actress, who was dining with her parents, "whined for a grown-up drink." Then he named it after her.

Upon the actress's death in 2014, Time reported that the story is probably true, but there's some debate about where it happened. It may have been Chasen's, but it may also have been the Brown Derby in Hollywood or the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. All three establishments have taken credit for the drink at various times.

You can go into any restaurant and ask for a Shirley Temple and the bartender will know exactly what you're asking for, but no one holds the rights to market a drink with the name. In 1988, Shirley Temple fought soft drink companies that wanted to make products using her name, saying "her privacy had been invaded by the unauthorized commercial use of her name." She brought civil lawsuits against two different companies, and she won.

Even though you can't market a Shirley Temple, you can make one at home. It's simple to throw together.

Fill a tall glass with ice. Add an ounce of grenadine. Fill the rest of the glass with ginger ale or lemon/lime soda. Add a maraschino cherry. One variation is to use the juice from a jar of maraschino cherries in place of the grenadine.

Just like the little girl grew up, the drink named after her grew up, too. There's now a full-proof cocktail that carries her married name. A Shirley Temple Black cocktail has many variations, but most of them simply add some sort of spirit — vodka and rum are common — to the signature ingredients of the non-alcoholic version.