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What is a Shirley Temple?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A Shirley Temple is a sweet, non-alcoholic drink named after the child actress of the same name. Created during the 1930s, the original mixture was two parts ginger ale, one part orange juice and a small amount of grenadine. It usually was garnished with a cherry — many children's favorite part of a Shirley Temple — and possibly an orange slice. Modern versions of the drink rarely include orange juice, and lemon-lime soda or even grapefruit soda is often substituted for ginger ale, but the cherry has remained an essential part.

Created in California

The drink was created for Shirley Temple by a bartender in Beverly Hills, California. The bartender worked at Chasen’s, a restaurant that the young actress frequented. She could not drink alcohol, so the bartender sought to create a drink that would appeal to the actress' young palate, and the Shirley Temple was born.

The goal of this drink is to contrast the sparkle and acid of the soda base with the sweet grenadine. Too much grenadine makes the drink extremely sweet, so a minimal amount should be added. The grenadine also functions as a coloring for the drink.

The actress' popularity during the 1930s and 1940s helped the drink catch on, and many children would order Shirley Temples while dining out with their parents. Decades later, children might order them without understanding the reference. Some companies have attempted to bottle this drink, leading to the first soft drink that actually contained a cherry. These bottled drinks gradually lost popularity, but cherry-flavored versions of other sodas might be considered remnants of those attempts.

Related Drinks

Other mixed drinks are related to Shirley Temples. One is the Roy Rogers, a non-alcoholic drink that consists of cola and grenadine — essentially a cherry cola. Unlike many mixed drinks that are created for adults and modified for children, the Shirley Temple has been modified for adults by adding alcohol. There are many varieties, such as a Dirty Shirley, also called a Shirley Vomit, which is a combination of lemon-lime soda, vodka and grenadine. A Shirley Temple-Black — the actress' married name after 1950 — consists of lemon-lime soda, grenadine and coffee-flavored liqueur.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By horsebite — On Aug 02, 2011

@SZapper - I used to work the door in a bar that had a special drink for when the customers wanted to buy one for the ladies who worked there. It was pretty much just juice or pop (so basically a Shirley Temple, sans cherries) - they could tell the bartender what they wanted when they ordered it, and it was garnished up all fancy.

They were like $7, on the premise that once it got to that point the guys would just pay it because they didn't want to look cheap. A few people complained, but most went with it.

Be aware guys, if you buy a drink for a woman who works in a bar, unless it's a bottle of beer or something you are probably buying her juice or soda at a gigantic markup.

By MaPa — On Aug 01, 2011

@DentalFloss - If nothing else, take comfort in the fact that you're coming to the end of the period in life where you have to care what other people think of your choices. A few more years, and you won't be "cool" no matter what you do, so it won't matter. Unless you're a hipster or something. Can't help you there.

I say, drink what you want, whether it's a Shirley Temple or some Jack on the rocks. If anyone asks, just tell them it's Sprite or something if you don't want to "out" yourself. Or make up a name and tell them it's "huge in Europe" or "the newest thing" or something. Let the bartender in on the gag ahead of time. I bet you see three or four people walking around with them by the end of the night. Then you're the trendsetter.

Of course, you could also try the alcoholic versions mentioned at the end of the article too -- they sound like some fine drinking to me!

By bigjim — On Jul 31, 2011

I always wanted to try one of those as a kid. I have diabetes and it would have sent my blood sugar into orbit! I suppose I could have used diet soda, but even still the juices and things would not have been the best idea. Too bad for me, I guess.

I hardly even drink as an adult, but for some strange reason I always felt left out when I was in middle school or so and my friends would order these at restaurants. I agree with those who said it may send the wrong message for kids to "practice" drinking, but I doubt it led to alcoholism for anyone not on the way there already.

By EricRadley — On Jul 31, 2011

@manykitties2 - I've always wondered why it's considered mature or grownup to walk around with a drink at parties. Do you think kids learn this from our own examples or perhaps from media?

By yseult — On Jul 30, 2011

@drtroubles - What about offering a variety of syrups to add as shots into soda water, along with some different garnishes? Perhaps the guests could try coming up with their own twist on the original Shirley Temple recipe. You could turn it into a little contest or party game!

By fingered — On Jul 29, 2011

@DentalFloss - Don't worry about what others might think about your choice of drinks. A drink is a drink, fair and simple, whether it contain alcohol or not. It would be silly to say that people are "supposed" to drink Shirley Temples only while they are kids. It's actually an excellent alternative to alcoholic drinks, while allowing people not to feel excluded by not drinking with the others in their group.

By DentalFloss — On Jul 29, 2011

I used to get these a lot in high school. There's a restaurant in my hometown that makes really good ones, and they were tasty with one of their appetizers -- one of my favorites was spinach artichoke dip.

However, now that I'm in my mid-20s, these are no longer "cool" and all of my friends drink, while I don't. I still like them, though, even if they're no long what I'm "supposed" to enjoy.

By kylee07drg — On Jul 29, 2011

It seems that I have been unknowingly making Shirley Temples for awhile now! I love mixing Sprite with orange juice and just a touch of grenadine. I thought I came up with the idea, but I guess not!

One thing extra I do add is a scoop of frozen vanilla yogurt. It fizzes delightfully when plopped onto the carbonated liquid. The bubbles burn holes in it and melt it slowly into the drink, giving the beverage a creamy texture.

My version of the Shirley Temple could be called a fizzy smoothie. It has a soft texture accented with a tart flavor.

By cloudel — On Jul 28, 2011

I’ve never had a Shirley Temple before, but it sounds a lot like Cherry 7-Up. I remember that soda from my childhood. The tangy fizz of the lemon-lime carbonation mixed with the cherry kick of grenadine made for a really enjoyable combination.

I have tried Cherry Coke and Cherry Dr. Pepper as well. Though both are very good, I prefer the Shirley-Templeness of Cherry 7-Up. It just packs such a punch with its sweet and sour flavors. I like using it as a summer drink for kids or a party punch.

By tigers88 — On Jul 28, 2011

@drtroubles - If I were you and I was anticipating on haiving a large number of underage guests at a party I would make a big batch of punch. You can find tons of recipes online and you can choose the one that best suits your taste.

Punch is really easy to make and the cost is very cheap too. If you really want to make things simple you might consider having one batch of non alcoholic punch and one batch of spiked punch. Guests with wristbands get the non alcoholic, guests without get the hard stuff. Logistically this might make things easier for you. Either way I hope its fun. 21 is such an exciting age.

By SZapper — On Jul 27, 2011

@JaneAir - That does sound like a pain. I don't see why a kids drink would need to come in a huge mug anyway!

@drtroubles - When I was under 21 I waitressed in a fairly relaxed bar. A lot of times customer would want to buy us drinks, and we weren't supposed to turn them down because it made more money for the bar.

My solution to this problem was to order a drink that was half cranberry juice and half orange juice. The bar actually had a special name for it, I forget what it was. Either way it was tasty and looked like a cocktail!

By JaneAir — On Jul 26, 2011

When I was in high school I waitressed at a diner. One of the drinks we had on the menus for the kids was a Shirley Temple!

This sounds fun and all, but the drink came in a big, heavy glass mug. It was a total pain to serve, especially if there was more than one kid at the table. As soon as one kid ordered a Shirley Temple, the rest of them would soon follow!

By drtroubles — On Jul 26, 2011

Does anyone have any good ideas for other drinks, besides a Shirley Temple, that you can serve at a party with those that are just underage attending?

We are throwing a party for our twenty-one year old daughter to celebrate her big birthday and she has some friends that have yet to reach the legal drinking age in our state. We want to make sure they have a wide variety of drinks to choose from so they don't get any ideas about sneaking some of the harder stuff. We are making sure everyone who is of age has a wristband and our party staff knows to take those wristbands seriously.

By manykitties2 — On Jul 25, 2011

A Shirley Temple is a great drink to include if you are having a family party and kids are invited. I have found that a lot of kids, especially in their teenage years want to hold something that looks like it could be a mixed drink, as it makes them feel more mature.

While I don't agree with teen drinking, I think that there is nothing wrong with having a drink that looks more grown up. We always serve our Shirley Temple drinks in a lovely glass with lots of ice. It really gives it that fresh, mixed-drink look. If you have the time, using finely crushed ice gives the drink a great texture.

By burcidi — On Jul 25, 2011

I don't drink alcohol for religious and personal reasons, so this is one of the drinks I like having when I meet up with my friends. It's awkward if I don't have anything and I don't want to ruin the atmosphere by refusing drinks. So I usually ask for a Shirley Temple. People don't even realize that it's non-alcoholic unless they know it's a shirley temple.

The kind I usually have though is a mixture of cherry syrup and sprite. I didn't even know the proper recipe for it until I read this article but I like this version a lot.

By surreallife — On Jun 11, 2010

It is really not surprising to find out that even a drink was named after a probably the most famous child stars of all times.

By olittlewood — On Jan 01, 2008

shirley temples are one of those things that brings back fond childhood memories! i may use your recipe to introduce my own children to this delightful drink! thanks for the article!

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
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