To a Depression-era public, she was the curly-haired “It” girl, a star so hot she was the sun, radiating hope and joy in a decade of gloom. But to generations of youth then and since, her name also signified a rite of passage. The Shirley Temple cocktail was and, in some quarters, still is a non-alcoholic way to playact mom and dad.
Legend has it the actress was out with her parents, who were sipping Old-Fashioneds. Precocious Shirley demanded her own fancy fortification. A waiter whipped up a mocktail using whisky-coloured ginger ale (or lemon-lime soda, the alternative base for the much-improvised drink), an orange slice, crimson grenadine syrup and a maraschino cherry.
But Temple reportedly dismissed the tale as myth. She had nothing to do with it, she once told NPR radio’s Scott Simon, attributing the invention-in-absentia to Hollywood’s famous Brown Derby restaurant. Some have said it was the spawn of Chasen’s in Beverly Hills.
Teetotalling adults and designated drivers, too, have partaken over the decades. My one and only brush with the cloying bevvy came in my early 20s. I was in New York for a debating tournament at Columbia University. My teammates and I had decided to deke out for a bracer at the swanky Rainbow Room on the 65th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza (yes, that 30 Rock). I ordered the predictable, a Manhattan. Craig called for a beer. To my horror, another teammate, Paul, asked for a Shirley Temple. It seemed to my postadolescent mind to represent the inverse of what the drink was designed to confer. Here, I thought, was an adult playacting a child.