Dede Wilson

co-founder of

The Innocence of Shirley Temples

When I was little, I loved ordering Shirley Temples whenever we went out to a restaurant. The red color was festive, the orange slice and maraschino cherry garnish seemed fancy and I got to have a “cocktail” with the adults.

For those of you who might not know, this drink is a combination of rich, sweet, ruby colored grenadine syrup, ginger ale and the above mentioned garnishes (sometimes with a splash of orange juice). I always loved it best when the bartender would not thoroughly mix the liquids. This way, when it arrived at the table, the heavier syrup would be on the bottom, gradually fading into a lighter red, then pink and eventually showing the light golden and sparkly soda near the top of the glass. There would always be a straw, and I could then mix it up myself, always first taking a sip of the almost straight grenadine from the bottom for a luscious sugary hit.

Jump-cut to the future. One very hot New York summer, my mother, father and my then ten-year old daughter, Ravenna, walked over to Chez Jacqueline, a French restaurant in the village. It was one of those July days where it is so hot and humid that you can feel the motes of dirt sticking to your face. The fact that we had a 15-minute walk to the restaurant didn’t help matters.

We had a reservation and were seated quickly. Ravenna was very thirsty and we ordered her a Shirley Temple, as she had followed in my footsteps of this being her default restaurant beverage. The very French waiter did not know what a Shirley Temple was.

“You know,” I explained. “It’s ginger ale with a splash of grenadine.”

His look told us he still didn’t know what we were talking about.

“The sweet syrup? It’s red and sweet?” I tried again.

We got a nod of recognition from him this time and he quickly returned with our drinks. Ravenna downed hers in less than a minute, we ordered another and this one was gone within about 5 minutes.

At that point, I looked over at her and she looked worse than before. She was quite flushed. In fact, her whole face was very red and her eyes looked glassy.

“I feel funny,” she told me.

My daughter was usually quite animated. This was not the Ravenna I was used to. She looked woozy.

“I think I’m still thirsty,” she said. “Can I have another Shirley Temple?”

“How about some water to drink?” I reasoned. I suggested she get up and walk around a bit. Maybe she needed to go to the bathroom and splash her face with some cool water. We went to the ladies room, stopping at the bar on the way back to the table to get her a glass of water.

She sat on a stool as I chatted with the bartender.

“My daughter just loves your Shirley Temples,” I told him. “But she still seems quite hot. I think some water might do the trick.”

He took one look at her and leaned forward to speak quietly near my ear.

“I think she’s flushed because of the Shirley Temples,” he said. “I make them with crème de cassis.”

Oh my god; I realized my daughter was intoxicated! His particular crème de cassis was twenty percent alcohol. He had used a generous amount in both drinks, which she had downed in very short order, on an empty stomach.

I told Ravenna that she was drunk, trying to very delicately explain what that meant. I promised her that she would eventually feel better and that the best course of action was to drink water and get some food into her.

You can bet that by the time Ravenna’s baby brothers were old enough to have Shirley Temples, I always made sure they were made the correct way. I suggest you do the same, although I cannot imagine this happening again; I never did find out the bartender’s reasoning. I am pleased to report that she did not experience any “morning after” effects although I can truly say that I was there the first time my daughter got drunk.