Since the brilliant market push of “rosé all day” launched about five years ago, summer imbibers have been obsessed with downing pink wine all season long. And the love for the drink hasn't stopped at that rooftop soiree or girls' night. Plenty of bartenders have also succumbed to rosé’s allure, using it as a building block in cocktails.
"Rosé works very well in cocktails because it’s a very refreshing beverage on its own," says Auriela Nossa, a bartender and the brand manager for The 86 Co. "Think of the typical notes that come up when sipping on rosé: floral notes, red fruits, melon. These can accentuate sours, spritzes and so on."
It’s true. Good rosé—not that too-sweet drink one might associate with boxed white zinfandel—imparts so many pleasing characteristics, from fresh flowers to juicy red berries to a faint citrus-tinged mineral essence. It’s a wonder that bartenders haven’t made it a mainstay in their toolboxes a long time ago.
"I love using sparkling rosé in cocktails for the color and the frizzante, which bring a playfulness and celebratory feel," says Jamie Steinberg, the beverage director of Motel Morris in New York City. "Rosé quite often brings berries and watermelon flavors to the palate, which is wonderful for creating something refreshing and seasonal, and obviously, it plays well with vodka and gin."
Bar menus across the country are blowing up with rosé cocktails. At Bar Freud in New York City, barman Albert Trummer has added three drinks featuring Whispering Angel rosé, as well as ingredients such as Aperol, rosemary, ginger beer, lime and St–Germain elderflower liqueur. In Denver, imbibers can indulge in the Rosé All Day cocktail at Señor Bear, made with Código 1530 rosa, Lillet rosé, Little Spokane Brewing Co. Pampalouse witbier and sparkling cava.
In Los Angeles, guests at Bibo Ergo Sum can get a splash of sparkling rosé in the Junebug, a drink that also contains Aperol, pamplemousse liqueur, raspberry and lemon. And at the aforementioned Motel Morris, Steinberg serves the Spring Fever, which features vodka, strawberries and elderflower syrup.
Of course, getting people to skip a chilled glass of wine or classic cocktail and dive into the world of both can be a challenge.
"The only hard part is getting past the customer's stigma that rosé is only for a specific subset of drinker," says Amanda Jones, the manager at Treadwell Park in NYC. "Rosé is so much more than its feminine color and sweetness, so we try to break these stigmas by drawing out the floral and fruit aspects."
"Rosé is so versatile. Some are tart, some dry, some floral, some fruit-forward," she says. "You can focus on any of those characteristics and come up with an infinite amount of recipes."
With that in mind, the next time you're at the bar, instead of sticking with a basic glass of pink wine, see if the bartender is playing with the ingredient. Try one of these four rosé cocktails at home. Who knows? One of them might just become your next summer slammer.
The Rosé All Day by Jones is a delicate marriage of sweet white rum, orange, pomegranate and rosé liqueurs, a dash of lemon and, of course, that pump of pink wine. "We chose to highlight the floral and fruit aspects by adding rosé liqueur with rhubarb bitters to balance it out," says Jones. "I'm in love with everything floral, and that's why I like using rosé in cocktails, because it's the only wine that embodies that to me and it's fun to play around with."
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At first, the heavy pour of tequila seems to take over this pink drink created by Jaime Salas, the national Milagro tequila brand ambassador, but that's just one layer. Once the spice of that spirit peels away, the fresh watermelon juice comes forward, carried on the bubbles of the floral sparkling rosé. This is the kind of drink that could easily replace the Margarita at a backyard barbecue, if anything for the complexity and festive color. Make it by the glass, or multiply the recipe by 10 and make a pitcher of the drink. You won't regret it (at least not in the moment).
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Creator Steinberg suggests using Sassetti vino spumante rosé, his favorite sparkling rosé from Italy. Of course, he says, any quality pink bubbles will do to make this flower-forward, sweet, tart and festive cocktail. Aside from the rosé, the use of Nikolaihof elderflower syrup is a key ingredient to help give it a romantic tinge—something you can imagine tasting in the garden of a queen. Another suggestion to give the drink a bit of a kick: Add an ounce of cucumber gin like Hendrick’s to help enhance both the booze level and that pretty floral essence.
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"This is a light and refreshing cooler that has enough oomph with the vodka but is still sessional," says Nossa. "The wine I use [My Essential Wine] is from our family friend Richard Betts, but this cocktail would be awesome with most rosés." Try it out with various types of rosé and see what you like, and while you do, enjoy the nuances of fresh berry, basil and lemon that help brighten this warm-weather sipper. Served in a tall glass filled with ice, the Provence Cooler can be sipped after a long day gardening, at your next soiree or anytime you want a refreshing but complex tipple.
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Mixing your cocktail