The White Lady cocktail

I sometimes joke that if I ever wrote a book devoted entirely to cocktails, it’d be called “Brown Drinks, Up” because I tend to order whiskey-based cocktails when I go out, and prefer those on the bitter end of the spectrum, to boot. My favorite trend in the cocktail world is to put a little picture of the type of glass next to the cocktail on the menu, to let you know what kind of glass it’s going to be served in.

I like iced cocktails, too, but generally prefer them in the spring and summer, and stick to “up” drinks in the winter months. I have read that some men won’t order drinks in coupe glasses because they don’t look manly drinking out of them, or something dumb like that. Roger Sterling on Mad Men routinely drank martinis and James Bond enjoyed his Vesper in a stemmed glass as well. Men come in all shapes, sizes, proclivities, and persuasions, and you’ll have to pry my coupe glass from my cold, cocktail-chilled hands.

That said, at home, this guy tends to go for gin-based drinks, which pairs well with citrus, and other sharp ingredients, like rosemary. The origin of this gin-based cocktail, called The White Lady, is a little unclear.

There’s a recipe for it in the iconic Savoy Cocktail Book, and it hews closely to the ingredients of a Sidecar, a cocktail with roots in France, that uses cognac, in place of the gin used here. These days, gin has crossed the channel and is now made in various places, including Scotland, the United States, and in France, too.

This drink also uses dry curaçao, which isn’t the blue stuff in bottles (which is apparently making a comeback, which, for the record, I don’t support). And years ago I had a devil of the time finding non-blue curaçao in Paris, but now there’s curaçao from Pierre Ferrand, a resurrection of what they say is the original way of making the orange-based liqueur.

The owner of Pierre Ferrand told me the name refers to the three separate distillations of the peels and spices that go into making it, which are later blended. It gets its particular flavor from a bitter, green-skinned variety of oranges, called Curaçao (or Laraha) oranges, whereas most other orange-based liqueurs are made from other types of sweet or sour oranges.

This is one of those very easy cocktails that can be made with ingredients you likely have on hand. If you don’t have curaçao, another orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau can be used. I’ve seen versions that are shaken with an egg white to give it a bit of froth. I’ll leave it up to you. But the coupe glass? That’s non-negotiable.


The White Lady
Print Recipe
1 cocktail
Some versions of this cocktail are shaken with an egg white. To do so, add the ingredients to the shaker with an egg white and "dry shake" it without ice for 15 to 20 seconds, then fill the shaker with ice, and shake for another 15 seconds, or until very cold.
2 ounces gin
1 ounce dry curaçao, or another triple sec or orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Add the gin, curaçao or orange-based liqueur, and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker.
2. Fill the shaker three-quarters full with ice, cover, and shake until well-chilled, about 15 seconds. Remove the cover and strain into a chilled coupe glass.
The White Lady cocktail is a classic!

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26 comments

  • Deborah Michie
    April 8, 2019 10:07pm

    All this needs is Lillet and a wash of absinthe and it’d be a corpse reviver #2!

  • Marianne
    April 8, 2019 10:44pm

    I do like this recipe, so easy to make for someone like me that doesn’t have a well-stocked bar.

  • David
    April 8, 2019 11:02pm

    This recipe is very close to what I know as a “Fine and Dandy” which uses slightly different proportions.

    2 oz gin (Plymouth recommended)
    1 oz triple sec or cointreau
    1 oz lemon juice
    with a garnish of lemon peel.

    A delicious drink that we have all summer.

    The proportions to The White Lady vary and yours for the Fine & Dandy are similar (I was still editing the post when it was posted, so the recipe wasn’t quite finished…) but whatever you call it, it’s a terrific cocktail! – dl

  • Victoria C.
    April 8, 2019 11:36pm

    Plymouth is my (only) gin, and I have that Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaćao so I will be making this in about 10 minutes. Yay.

  • Jane N.
    April 9, 2019 12:42am

    If you are looking for the best contemporary gin in the world you might have to visit the town of Sooke, located just outside of Victoria on Vancouver Island in B.C. Read the following to find out more.

    If you’re looking for the home of the best contemporary gin in the world, you’ll find it in Sooke.
    Sheringham Distillery took home the honour last night at the 2019 World Gin Awards hosted by Gin Magazine in London, England.
    Competing against hundreds of distilleries from all over the world, the small island distillery managed to take first place for its Seaside Gin in the Canadian category before earning top spot in the world.

    • Carol
      April 10, 2019 9:59pm

      Oh no! We were in Sooke last year and were unaware of the Gin connection, which really makes me sad. We did enjoy the beers, though! I must try the Sheringham :-)

  • Pamela Jackson
    April 9, 2019 12:47am

    Here on Vancouver Island there are at least two world-class gins produced, one Is Victoria Distillers in Sidney and
    the second is Sheringham Distillers.
    They recently won an award in London,
    UK, in a major international contest.

  • Susan PAUL
    April 9, 2019 2:21am

    Uncle Val’s gin. Works with my French 75, I think it might work with this, too. Merci bien.

  • annabelle lenderink
    April 9, 2019 2:37am

    Dear David,
    I am a longtime fan and reader of yours and a west coast farmer who supplies some of your old friends.
    Curacao refers to the island where the liqueur was originally made.
    I was born up the road from the “factory”, in fact a lovely old country place!
    https://www.curacaoliqueur.com/senior-liqueurs
    The oranges I believe were Valencia’s originally planted by the Spanish that reverted to a wilder state over time and are too bitter for eating fresh.

    • April 9, 2019 10:51am

      Totally fascinating! I love this blog not only for David’s vivid writing and delicious recipes, but also for the great comments!

  • Michael Tyler
    April 9, 2019 4:12am

    Just wanted to say thank you for sharing your fascinating and fun posts and newsletters. They are the best read

  • Sarahb1313
    April 9, 2019 6:02am

    Ok… so your go to gin right now?
    I am a Saphire fan, especially with Q tonic, as well as Bar Hill, which has a nice juniper slant ;-)

    • April 9, 2019 1:19pm
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve been using Fords, Citadelle, and the Botanist gins, but also use Beefeater when doing a lot of recipe testing, which is reasonably priced and easy to obtain in France.

      • Penelope Rice
        April 9, 2019 2:39pm

        Please try some of the Australian gins. Moore’s, or Manly gin for starters, using some botanicals from our region.
        I’ll be in Paris in August/September and will happily bring you some samples

  • Tom
    April 9, 2019 3:13pm

    One of the characters in John Le Carre’s novel “Looking Glass War” only drinks White Ladies.

  • Simon B
    April 9, 2019 5:09pm

    Years ago I discovered G’Vine, a French gin. It has a lovely flavor and not at all harsh. My husband (who doesn’t really like gin) even like it! Cheers

  • Nick
    April 9, 2019 7:42pm

    Gin is a corruption of the Dutch for juniper, the original botanical.
    Homemade gin or bathtub gin or Mother’s ruin became a scandal in the 18thC in London, famous satirist Hoagarth, published a very famous cartoon “Gin Lane”. He contrasted it against “Beer Street”. Obviously a soul mate with Ben Johnson.
    The Plymouth variant became the staple drink of officers of the Royal Navy sometime before the US was invented and remains so today.

  • Gavrielle
    April 9, 2019 11:58pm

    With the egg white this would be similar to a pisco sour, to which I can only say yum.

    I enjoyed seeing you on the Bobby Flay thing, although I can’t help suspecting some manipulation in the result. Not intense? As if. When you said “I’m famous for my chocolate desserts”, my partner turned to me and said ‘Hell, *you’re* famous for his chocolate desserts!”:). I know who was the better chocolate-slinger in that challenge, by a country mile.

  • Katie
    April 10, 2019 2:40am

    A drink after my bitter, gin-loving heart!

  • Carol
    April 10, 2019 10:02pm

    I will search out that dry Curacao tomorrow for my Gin-loving heart too!

  • patti with an i
    April 15, 2019 9:47pm

    Off-topic; just wanted to reach out to Paris on this awful day with Notre-Dame in flames. We are all Parisians today and we send love and support your way.

  • Sidney
    April 15, 2019 10:30pm

    Notre Dame!

    • Caroline
      April 15, 2019 10:49pm

      Notre Dame burning! How awful… I´m so sorry.

  • Shari
    April 16, 2019 5:50am

    My heart goes to France and her citizens on this terrible day. So very sad.

  • Vieilleanglaise
    April 16, 2019 3:59pm

    Roger Sterling drank Gibsons.

  • Dianmari
    April 22, 2019 9:42am

    I got stuck at the comment on glasses. Isn’t the first one a sherry glass?