Many self-proclaimed manly men wouldn’t dare order a glass of pink wine, let alone bubbly pink wine. One look at that pale hue, and they think strawberries, bubblegum and Sex and the City. But if manly men believe those qualities bear any resemblance to rosé, they’re letting their eyes deceive them.
Rosé is where the lush, fruit-driven flavors of white wine meet the tannic complexity of red wine. The hue comes not from some red dye number 4-infused syrup mixed with bubbly, it’s from white wine being briefly exposed to the grape skins, seeds and stems it normally would be separated from. Or it’s introduced by blending red and white wines before the second fermentation that introduces the bubbles. Either way, that hint of red brings a lot of tannin and structure to the party, giving rosé its incredible taste.
Of course, me being me, I couldn’t let the somms be the only one receiving plaudits for introducing people (including self-proclaimed manly men) to sparkling rosé. I knew a good rosé could boost the right cocktail in much the same way champagne does in a French 75.
What qualifies as a “good rosé”? When I’m searching for one, I want a dry, tannic, acidic and high-structured varietal. I tend to find that in French bruts or dry cavas from Spain. While it certainly doesn’t apply to all of them, Californian and Italian rosés are more likely to be sweet, and that won’t add the required depth to a cocktail.
Back at the bar, I balance out the effervescent dry French brut or Spanish dry cava with the bright flavors of gin and fresh lemon in a cocktail I call the Bowie Knife. Why did I choose that name? I thought such a masculine handle wouldn’t make all those manly men so afraid of ordering a pink drink.
• 2 oz. brut rosé
• 1 oz. London dry gin
• 1 oz. lemon juice
• ½ oz. rich simple syrup (two parts sugar, to one part water, by weight, combined in a small saucepan over low heat until sugar is dissolved)
Shake ingredients with ice and top with 2 oz. brut rosé. Strain cocktail over fresh ice in a chilled Collins glass. Yes, that’s right—combine the rosé with the gin, juice and syrup before straining so the ingredients are fully combined in the glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
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Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common, the acclaimed gastropub at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. He is also author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.