Dirty Shirleys

I’m a sucker for a food trend, or in this case, a cocktail trend so when I read in the New York Times Food Section that 2022 was going to be the Summer of Dirty Shirleys, I had to try it! A Dirty Shirley is basically a Shirley Temple with vodka in it. That’s it.

Apparently, this super-sweet and nostalgic drink is in reaction to the rather tasteless, low-calorie drinks that are all the rage these days. Think Ranch Water (Topo Chico Sparkling water with lime juice and tequila), Vodka and Sodas and that awful canned beverage our kids love, White Claw.

Also, there’s the natural regression the Pandemic caused (anyone care to climb under the covers in their PJ’s and watch Bewitched with me?) and a regression to childhood pleasures, such as that classic childhood drink, the iconic Shirley Temple. And, with the (maybe?) ending of the pandemic, there’s that feeling of euphoria- let’s pop the cork and celebrate! Apparently, it was a perfect storm for the invention of the Dirty Shirley.

When I went to make this drink, my Rose’s Grenadine (the most popular type sold in the U.S.) was semi-solid and hard to pour out of the bottle, as apparently I hadn’t used it in years. Grenadine in a non-alcoholic drink, typically made with Pomegranate, sugar and water. Rose’s is made with high fructose corn syrup, water, citric acid and Red Dye#40, among other ingredients. It is VERY SWEET, so I only used half of what was called for.

As was this drink. I couldn’t bear to use regular Sprite, so used sugar free and only half the grenadine it called for. I lost a cherry at the bottom, so put a second on a drink umbrella to keep it afloat. As I choked down this concoction, I tried to imagine a scenario where I would actually enjoy this drink. Maybe if I was really drunk and someone sent a tray full over for the table? Or, if I was out with my grandson and wanted to drink a similar drink as his, but with a kick? I’m not really sure, but I don’t think I need to try this recipe again.

But that shouldn’t stop you from trying the “Summer Drink of 2022″. You may want to invest in a new bottle of Grenadine, however. The New York Times describes the taste of the Dirty Shirley as “syrupy, verging on the sickly sweet.” I couldn’t agree more.

Dirty Shirleys

Recipe by New York TimesCuisine: CocktailDifficulty: Easy



Here’s the recipe for a Dirty Shirley, a Shirley Temple with a kick.


  • Ice

  • 2 ounces vodka

  • 1 ounce grenadine

  • 8 ounces lemon-lime soda (7-Up or Sprite)

  • 1 (or 2) maraschino cherry for garnish


  • Fill a highball glass with ice. Add the vodka and grenadine to the glass. Top with soda and garnish with a maraschino cherry.


  • You can use Sugar Free Sprite, as I did, to reduce the sugar overkill.

Up Next: My New Favorite Cocktail

Published by gleeguilford

Born and raised in Miami, the daughter of a pilot and stay-at-home Mom, I love food in all forms. My great grandfather opened the first Italian restaurant in Miami in the 20's, The Boathouse on the Miami river. I love exploring my heritage and linking food and recipes to personal stories. I've been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love and wrote restaurant reviews and news as the Miami Dining Examiner for three years. I love exploring Miami's latest hot spots, hole in the walls and institutions. I'm always looking for innovative ways to use the plethora of tropical fruits and vegetables South Florida offers, especially from my own garden.

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