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A Shirley Temple cocktail or “mocktail.”

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.

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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.

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