The official drink of the summer is here, and it’s the Dirty Shirley cocktail! A classic Shirley Temple mocktail gets an adult kick with the addition of vodka. This drink takes just minutes to whip up, and it couldn’t be easier to prepare.
You’ll want to sip on this refreshing vodka cocktail all season long. It’s the ultimate summer drink recipe.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Adds a little nostalgia to the occasion: Remember how grown up and fancy you felt when sipping on a Shirley Temple or Roy Rogers as a kid? Any recipe that takes you back to those simpler times always adds a little fun, but this is even better because a little vodka is involved to turn this into an adult beverage! Wink, wink.
Tastes like summer in a glass: With that crisp lemon-lime soda and fruity grenadine, the Dirty Shirley is full of seasonal flavors that are perfect on a hot day. It’s just what you need for patio sipping. Your guests are in for a treat.
As quick and easy as it gets: Not an expert mixologist? That’s no problem here -- this is one easy cocktail. Mixing up this spiked Shirley Temple does not require advanced bartending skills. You’ll be sipping on this cooling summer cocktail in no time.
Bonus: If you love this kicked-up version of a classic summer drink, I bet you’ll also enjoy my tequila lemonade!
Just in case you need one more reason to love this spiked classic mocktail, look at that those simple ingredients.
Vodka: I recommend using the best vodka in your budget. For a top-shelf vodka, Grey Goose and Belvedere are always great with a smooth finish that perfectly blends into drinks without any harsh after-bite. If you’re looking for more of a mid-range vodka, Tito’s and Absolut are solid options.
Lemon-lime soda: Yes, this is your standard Sprite, 7UP or Sierra Mist. These days, you can also purchase artisan or craft lemon-lime soda, and that’s a perfect option if you’d like to elevate the Dirty Shirley from a children’s drink – you know, besides adding that vodka.
Grenadine syrup: This is what gives our drink that pretty color and fruity flavor. You can find grenadine with the cocktail mixers at the grocery store, or you could even prepare your own homemade grenadine, which is tastier. But I totally get if you want to keep things as simple as possible, so do what works for you.
Now let’s show you how truly easy it is to whip up this adult Shirley Temple.
Step 1: We add a splash of grenadine syrup and vodka to an ice-filled glass (photo 1).
Step 2: Now we top the vodka and grenadine with that bubbly lemon-lime soda (photo 2). To combine, gently stir with a bar spoon. You definitely want to stir it. Otherwise, you'll just get a big gulp of vodka if you sip it with a straw.
Step 3: Because any proper Shirley Temple comes with fun garnishes, we add a few maraschino cherries and a lime wheel or wedge (photo 3). And don't be shy with those garnishes. No one will complain about extra cherries.
And that’s it! See? It could not be easier to whip up this cocktail. Sit back and enjoy.
For this drink, I recommend a highball glass. The long, cylindrical shape of our tall glass funnels the drink nicely since we’re not shaking, and it helps maintain those fizzy bubbles.
You can absolutely make the drink in a pitcher. Simply pour the grenadine and vodka into the pitcher and right before serving, add the lemon-lime soda.
You don’t want to add the soda early because you’ll lose all that delightful carbonation, but you can certainly pour in the other ingredients and store in the refrigerator if you’d like. Hey, it’s one less thing to worry about while you’re entertaining, right? Don't forget the cherries and lime wedges for serving time.
Most people think grenadine is a cherry-flavored syrup, which I suspect is because of its color, but it’s actually a pomegranate syrup with a touch of orange blossom water. Some people make a Shirley Temple with maraschino cherry juice instead of grenadine, but the two are different products. That said, you'll still love that cherry flavor in a pinch if you don't have grenadine on hand.
Instead of 1 ounce grenadine, you can use 0.5 ounce pomegranate juice and 0.5 ounce simple syrup. While this isn’t an exact match for grenadine, it’s a close substitute.
If you aren’t a vodka fan, try white rum or blanco tequila. Gin would also make for a sophisticated twist.
Get extra fruity and add a splash of your favorite fruit juice or try a flavored vodka. A splash of orange juice is a favorite, and just about any fruit-infused vodka would be great. Feel free to get creative and try different varieties -- even a vanilla vodka would work well.
Likewise, give your Dirty Shirley Temple cocktail an extra fruity twist and muddle a little fresh fruit with the grenadine. You can also muddle some fresh mint with the grenadine before adding the soda. This infuses a fresh herbal flavor that’s absolutely delicious, especially for summer.
Maraschino cherries are standard for a Shirley Temple, but for a fancier touch, use Luxardo cherries instead.
If you like a little spice, try substituting the lemon-lime soda for ginger ale or ginger beer for even more of a kick.
Use a chilled glass: Make it extra refreshing with a chilled glass. To chill your glass, place it in the freezer 30 minutes before serving. Or if you’re tight on time, fill the glass with ice water for five minutes, stir the ice water for 30 seconds and then dump it. Your glass is now chilled and ready for that Dirty Shirley.
Refrigerate the ingredients before serving: Since we’re not using a cocktail shaker, chilling your ingredients beforehand helps ensure our drink is nice and cold.
Cut down on the sugar to suit your taste: If you don’t love overly sweet drinks, substitute the lemon-lime soda for club soda.
Give it an extra citrusy kick: If you like plenty of fresh citrus, squeeze in a little fresh lime juice, lemon juice or both. While the soda may be lemon-lime flavored, you can’t beat freshly squeezed citrus.
I also think this cocktail is perfect with barbecues, so try it with my smoked chicken. The bubbly citrus adds a lovely brightness, and the fruity grenadine offers a nice contrast to the spice rub.
I hope you enjoy the drink of the summer and make this Dirty Shirley cocktail. It’s the perfect light refresher for the season and will be everyone's new favorite drink at your backyard barbecue.
More Refreshing Cocktails
Dirty Shirley Cocktail
- Highball glass
- Jigger or small measuring cup
- Bar spoon
- 2 ounces vodka
- 1 ounce grenadine
- 8 ounces lemon-lime soda
- Maraschino cherry for garnish
- Lime wedge or wheel for garnish
- In a tall highball glass, add a handful of ice and pour in the vodka and grenadine.
- Top with chilled lemon-lime soda. To combine, gently stir with a bar spoon.
- Garnish with a maraschino cherry and a lime wedge or wheel. Enjoy!
- Refrigerate the ingredients before serving: Since we’re not using a cocktail shaker, chilling your ingredients beforehand helps ensure our drink is nice and cold.
- If you don’t love overly sweet drinks, substitute the lemon-lime soda for club soda.
- If you like plenty of fresh citrus, squeeze in a little fresh lime juice, lemon juice or both. While the soda may be lemon-lime flavored, you can’t beat freshly squeezed citrus.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.