The Shirley Temple's Waikiki connection
Last week, my “Barfly” column in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser paid a visit to the Mai Tai Bar at The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort. (Click the link to read it for free; no subscription required.)
I got a pink carpet tour of the bar’s new interpretations of a Waikiki classic, thanks to Mai Tai Bar head bartender Kui Wright, but during the course of conversation it was mentioned that another now world-famous drink was poured at the Pink Palace long before it caught on elsewhere.
Shirley Temple Black was a former United Nations delegate and two-time appointee as a United States ambassador before her death in 2014 at 85 years old. But it was her prior life as a child actor that made her a millionaire during the Great Depression as well as an international celebrity... and led to the creation of the Shirley Temple.
Mocktails might be surging in popularity these days, but nearly 80 years ago when Black traveled by steamship to Honolulu with her parents, she needed something fancy-looking to go with the alcoholic drinks the adults would order.
What she got was a glass of ginger ale mixed with grenadine and topped with a maraschino cherry. And according to Starwood Waikiki director of public relations Dara Young, she ordered this drink — now known as the Shirley Temple — quite often at the Royal Hawaiian.
Like the Mai Tai, there’s some controversy surrounding the origins of drink's recipe. Young said the Mai Tai Bar never claimed to be the birthplace of the Shirley Temple, but did confirm the child actor’s family stayed at the hotel multiple times in the 1930s.
Black herself told National Public Radio the drink was first made in Southern California.
“Yes, well, those were created in the 1930s by the Brown Derby Restaurant in Hollywood,” she said. “I had nothing to do with it.”
Jason Genegabus has covered the local entertainment, nightlife, music and bar scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.