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The White Lady – A Classic Prohibition Cocktail

Updated on August 3, 2012

"I couldn't have something with gin, could I?" Leiser asked. "White Lady's my drink."

There was a moment’s bewildered silence.

“That wouldn’t do at all,” Leclerc said shortly.

-John Le Carré, The Looking Glass War (1965), p. 181


As John Le Carré (author of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ) knew too well, the White Lady is one of those hidden treasures in the cocktail world. A favorite from the late prohibition era, this lesser-known variation of the sidecar exists under multiple aliases. It’s been called the Delilah, the Chelsea Sidecar, the Lillian Forever, or simply a Gin Sidecar, but they’ll all give you the same thing – a lemony-fresh gin cocktail with a kick of history. It was first concocted in 1919 at Ciro’s Club in London, a cutting edge private club that first combined dancing and fine dining in a trend that would soon take over the city.

Like the sidecar, the White Lady belongs to the family of cocktails known as "sours". Sours contain a base liquor, lemon or lime juice, and a sweetener – margaritas are a great example.

A Spectral Name

The name “White Lady” is rather fitting for this diaphanous cocktail. History abounds with stories of white ladies, a term applied to a particular family of ghost mythology. White Ladies, as the name implies, are female spirits that are pale and gauzy in appearance. They usually haunt in rural settings, such as crumbling castles of the moorlands or forgotten countryside cemeteries. The legend exists across the world. In Germany, the Weisse Frauen is a beautiful white spirit that shines in the sunlight at noon. In Ireland, the sighting of a white lady foretells death. In Mexico, they are the spirits of women who drowned their own children, and lurk by rivers and lakes to lure more children to their death. Most often, the woman in white was a victim of betrayal or murder. These stories are strangely menacing for such a delicious and refreshing beverage!


  • 3 ounces (2 shots) Gin
  • 1 1/2 ounces (1 shot) Orange Liqueur (Triple Sec or Cointreau)
  • 1 1/2 ounces (1 shot) Lemon Juice, fresh
  • 1 cup Ice
  • Lemon twist or wedge


  1. Begin by chilling a martini glass: fill the glass with ice and water, then set aside.
  2. Add 1 cup of ice to your martini shaker.
  3. Pour gin, triple sec, and lemon juice into the shaker.
  4. Place the strainer and cap on your cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds
  5. Dump the ice water out of your martini glass.
  6. Remove the cap of the cocktail shaker, leaving the strainer on. Pour the contents into your martini glass.
  7. Garnish with lemon twist or slice.
Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1 glass
Calories 250
Calories from Fat0
% Daily Value *
Sugar 16 g
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.
5 stars from 1 rating of White Lady


Le Carré, John. The Looking Glass War. New York: Scribner, 1965.

Chapman, Gary. “The Classy Ciro’s Restaurant Chain”. Jazz Age Club. 2010. Web. 4 June 2012. <http:// >

Inglis-Arkell, Esther. “Why Are There So Many Ghost Stories About a Woman in White?” Io9. 2010. Web. 7 June 2011. <http://>

Solmonson, David. “White Lady”. 12 Bottle Bar. 2012. Web. 4 June 2012. <>


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    • SouthernHoney profile image

      SouthernHoney 5 years ago from Woodinville, WA

      On a side note, I had a White Lady recently in Charleston, SC, and the bartender used egg whites. It was SO GOOD. I wonder if that's more of a southern thing?

    • SouthernHoney profile image

      SouthernHoney 5 years ago from Woodinville, WA

      How true Simone, I am such a sucker for old, classic drinks! Kind of takes you back in time, doesn't it? Thanks for reading :)

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Oh how cool! This sounds like a really tasty drink, and I especially love knowing that it was popular during the Prohibition period! History makes everything taste better.

    • SouthernHoney profile image

      SouthernHoney 5 years ago from Woodinville, WA


      Thank you so much! I had a lot of fun researching this one. Always love a good ghost story ;).

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      This sounds fabulous...loved the article that goes with the recipe!

    • SouthernHoney profile image

      SouthernHoney 5 years ago from Woodinville, WA


      That sounds amazing, I love making my own mixers. I’m going to have to try that Triple Sec recipe. Thanks so much for commenting!

    • shin_rocka04 profile image

      shin_rocka04 5 years ago from Maryland

      Very classy and it looks like a great summertime cocktail.

    • denisemai profile image

      Denise Mai 5 years ago from Idaho

      Beautiful. I can't wait to try one!

    • toomuchmint profile image

      toomuchmint 5 years ago

      I haven't read the Looking Glass War in ages. Now I'm tempted to re-read it while sipping a White Lady.

      I found a great recipe for homemade Triple Sec - basically just vodka infused for a week with whole oranges and simple syrup to taste.

      I can't wait to mix a batch.

      Great recipe!