The Dirty Shirley Cocktail is a refreshing cherry drink that is reminiscent of the childhood classic Shirley Temple
Some of my favorite childhood memories are dinner with my family. My parents would always order me a “Shirley Temple” mocktail before dinner and it made me feel so grown-up.
Now, as an adult, I love to mix up and serve this updated adult version of a classic old favorite for family and friends.
This limited ingredient cocktail is easy to make, fun to serve, and will take your friends back to their favorite childhood memories at your next get-together!Jump to Recipe
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What is a Dirty Shirley Cocktail?
Simply put, a Dirty Shirley is the adult boozy version of a classic Shirley Temple, all grown up! It is cool and refreshing but with the same sweet old fashion twist.
This grown-up version of the classic nostalgic mocktail is a perfect sweet summertime treat. It’s perfect for girls’ night too!
Where did the Shirley Temple originate?
No one really knows for sure which establishment originally served the first Dirty Shirley, but clearly, it is linked to the original Shirley Temple mocktail.
It is rumored that the legendary (and now closed) Brown Derby Restaurant in Hollywood was the birthplace of the original non-alcoholic drink called the Shirley Temple. The famous child actress, Shirley Temple, was seen there on many occasions, especially after award shows in the 1930’s, and they wanted to make her feel special. (Fun fact: the Brown Derby also invented the Cobb Salad!)
Ingredients for a Dirty Shirley Cocktail:
- Amarena Wild Cherries, jarred, in syrup
- 7-Up ~ (we prefer 7-Up Zero Sugar)
- Mint leaves, for garnish
- You’ll also want to use short skewers or pretty cocktail picks for the garnish
We tested this recipe a few different ways (it’s a tough job, we know!), and here’s what we (and our all too willing friends) found:
- We settled on using 7-up with Zero Sugar. Because the zero sugar version is less sugary it allows the sweetness of the cocktail to come mainly from the delicious deeply flavored cherry syrup. It also makes this drink lower in calories!
- Using the flavor-packed Italian jarred Amarena Cherries was far tastier than using Grenadine. The syrup in those jars is pure cherry flavor!
How to make a Dirty Shirley
- Strain one ounce of Amarena cherry juice from the jar into a shot glass
- Set aside 3 cherries for garnish
- Fill a tall glass with ice cubes (we recommend a clear glass because this gal is gorgeous!)
- Pour 2 ounces of vodka into the tall glass
- Drizzle in the reserved 1 ounce of Amarena cherry syrup
- Slowly fill the remainder of the glass with 6 ounces of 7-up
- With a cocktail pick or 3-4″ skewer, add one mint leaf and three Amarena cherries
- Place over the top of the glass as your garnish
- Serve cold and enjoy!
What are Amarena Cherries?
Amarena Cherries come from the cities of Bologna and Modena in Italy. “Amarena” is a variety of cherry that is small, dark, and tart. They are preserved in a gorgeous syrup and often sold in equally beautiful jars.
These cherries have a wonderfully delicious flavor that is unlike the Maraschino Cherry. They are definitely a gourmet treat that can be used in many different recipes, and if you store them in the refrigerator they have a long shelf life.
From drizzling in cocktails to topping ice cream or pound cake, these cherries add a taste of elegance to any dish. We love to pour a drizzle and a few cherries over brie or goat cheese on a charcuterie board for a gorgeous touch.
Cocktail Recipe Variations
This is a simple list of ingredient substitutes for making a Dirty Shirley
- Amarena Cherries – substitute Maraschino cherries
- Amarena Cherry Syrup – use the syrup from the Maraschino cherries or the traditional Grenadine
- 7-up – substitutes include Sprite or any lemon-lime soda. Some versions use ginger ale
Using any or all of these substitutions will change the flavor and color of the cocktail. Either way, we recommend using the best quality, since there are so few ingredients.
The ultimate variation ~ “The Dirty Shirley-tini”
During our tasting sessions, we thought about how this cocktail would also make a fantastic martini!
- Using the recipe above: (2 ounces vodka, 1 ounce cherry syrup, and 6 ounces 7-Up), combine in a glass
- Add 1/2 ounce of fresh-squeezed lime juice
- Fill a martini shaker with ice
- Add all of the Dirty Shirley ingredients and shake until the shaker is super cold
- Pour into a martini glass
- To garnish: add one mint leaf and three Amarena Cherries to a cocktail pick or short skewer and lay across the top of the martini
- Serve and enjoy!
Looking for more great cocktail ideas?
We’ve got you covered on gorgeous fun drink ideas:
- Blueberry Vodka Cocktail
- Watermelon Vodka Cocktail
- Cucumber Mint Cocktail
- Pineapple Vodka Cocktail
- Spicy Mango Margaritas
- Lemon Drop Martini
Dirty Shirley Cocktail
- 2 ounces Vodka (cold)
- 1 ounce cherry syrup, from Amarena jarred cherries, + 3 cherries for garnish
- 6 ounces 7-up
- 1 mint leaf
- Strain one ounce of Amarena Cherry juice from the jar into a shot glass and set aside 3 cherries for garnish
- Fill an 8 oz glass with ice
- Add 2 ounces of vodka
- Pour in 1 ounce of Amarena syrup
- Fill the remainder of the glass slowly with 6 ounces of 7-Up
- Stir briskly to blend all of the flavors together
- Add one mint leaf and three Amarena cherries to a cocktail pick, or short skewer. Place across the top of the glass for garnish
- Serve and enjoy!
- Can’t find Amarena Cherries – just substitute Grenadine for the syrup and Maraschino cherries
- This recipe can be doubled for 2 drinks
- The Amarena syrup blends best at room temperature