When I was a kid, my dad owned a sports bar that opened every day at 6 a.m. I have no idea how he came to own this bar, it just was. When I asked him, some years later, about the obscenely early hours, he said matter-of-factly, “It’s when a lot of truckers finish their shift.” Oh, right.
The bar was largely run by Joe, a pre-diabetic with cataracts who seemed to tolerate the supercilious hypocrisy of my dad’s visible contempt—and total dependence—on him. My father had that patented Tony Soprano lack of self-awareness: No amount of blatant incongruity could dispel him from his own hubris. He saw himself as a high-level executive, never mind that he was the proprietor of a dive bar and couldn’t hold down a corporate job. The bar was his pragmatism in a nutshell (or a pint glass), so was his way of outsourcing parental guidance–my notions of right and wrong were to be furnished by private Christian schooling, instead of by the example set at home.
Though my dad liked to think of himself as a guy who loved kids and loved being a father—”I’da have two, three! more kids if I could,” he’d exclaim in his Balkan baritone—he was, in fact, not particularly well-suited or inclined towards the banality of child rearing. He seemed to wince every time one of us approached him, the act of fatherly presence as enticing to him as a root canal. As a kid, I desperately wanted to know my dad and be liked by him. Many of our exchanges resembled the dialogue of a painful first date, with one party clearly more invested in making a connection:
Me: Daddy, what do you think your favorite food is?
Him: [Long measured exhale] Uhh, I don’t know, that’s, uh, kinda tough to say.
Me: I like spaghetti.
Him: Spaghetti is good.
Me: Yea, but it’s kinda messy. [Beaming a big gap toothed smile at him]
Him: [Half-hearted chuckle, awkwardly looks around the room.] Heh. Yeah. I guess it is.
I was overjoyed when he began bringing me by the bar on occasion, in the late mornings after daycare when he was tasked with parental duty. We’d sit, just the two of us, in his office in the back, and I reveled in my assignment of sorting and counting the coins in their allotted trays, and putting them in their respective paper rolls for the weekly bank drop.
If the bar was closed for the afternoon shift change, my presence on the bar floor no longer a liability, I’d sit at the bar and Joe, trying to summon a twinkle in his eye, would say: “What’s it gonna be?” and I’d say: “Shirley Temple, on the rocks, and make it a double, wouldya?” to a round of laughter from the staff; my reward for being a kid and saying the darndest thing. The Shirley Temple Joe made me was basically just grenadine shot down with Sprite from the soda gun, a somehow more egregious imitation of the original recipe, which calls for orange juice, ginger ale, and grenadine, but I slurped back the cavity-inducing concoction in glorious oblivion, munching on my maraschino cherry. Perhaps this is why whenever I happen upon a place that smells like chlorine, stale beer, and cigarettes, occupied by the hard-living and barely alive, I can’t help but think, “Ahh, my people.”
Supposedly, the Shirley Temple cocktail was invented so that the young starlet it was named after would have something festive yet child-appropriate to drink at the many adult functions she was often required to attend. Eventually, the curly haired tap-dancing prodigy with the famous dimples grew up and away from Hollywood. I guess I grew up, too. So here’s a Shirley Temple cocktail, all growed up.
Ms. Shirley Temple
- ¾ oz fresh lime juice
- ¾ oz split sweetened ginger juice* and grenadine
- 2 oz white rum
- Club Soda
- Optional: Orange wheel and/or maraschino cherry for garnish
Add all ingredients (except club soda) to a shaker. Place one small piece of ice in the shaker, and whip shake for about eight seconds. (This is essentially a dry shake, but the pebble of ice offers agitation to froth up the mixture.) Pour into a tall chilled glass, filled with ice, and top with club soda.
How to make sweetened ginger juice:
If you have a juicer, juice the ginger (skin on) and then stir in white granulated sugar at a ratio of 4 parts fresh ginger juice to 3 parts white sugar. Incorporating the sugar takes a minute, so make sure you whisk/shake vigorously and patiently. If you don’t have a juicer, you can make it with fresh ginger juice from the store. There will be a sticky white sediment that accrues to the bottom as it keeps; you can either reincorporate this into the syrup or leave it be. Store in a container in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days. (Honestly, I’ve kept it for longer, but there is a marked reduction in the spiciness of the ginger after a while.)
It is absolutely worth making your own sweetened ginger juice. If you enjoy Dark’ n’ Stormy’s, Penicillins, Moscow Mules, etc., having this in your cocktail arsenal is a game changer. You don’t need to make much either, most recipes call for ½ -¾ ounces of the stuff.
If you’re on a real syrup-making tear, why not make your own grenadine as well? Add 8 ounces pomegranate concentrate and 2 ounces rose water to 1 1/4 liters of simple syrup.
Refrigerated in an airtight container; most syrups keep for about a week, though, again, I have been known push it past that point.