Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Rose

Hi dear reader: watch me peak early! [WARNING: Art Drink ahead. If you thought I was analytical before..]

So, I've been a bit slow on the recipe roll-out. Hit some road blocks after the initial week and prep for this recipe wound up being even more extensive than previously thought. But, to stretch the whole start-up theme, I'm going to continue extending roses to cocktail sites, which, as far as blog starter traffic strategies go, probably isn't that bad a thing, if not wholly intentional. (oh, and HEY! It's mid-Spring Day! We can use that!)

Back in February, I published a rough ingredient list of this cocktail, tweeted to and retweeted by @Liquor (Liquor.com).* Let's get the full recipe up now that I've refined to 98%. We're sticking, not only with the rose theme, but Gran Centenario Rosangel hibiscus-infused reposado tequila

*[and on a personal note, should anyone from Liquor.com read this: amateur home mixologist here. To me this blog is mostly a public journal of my best efforts, with lots of thoughts and notes along the way. I appreciate the retweet last time, but - goodness - the best of the best contribute to your site and I am not fit to polish their shakers (yet). So while I'm sure to tweet a link of this post your way as a follow-up, Twitter "insta-fame" means much less to me than concocting a good enduring, meaningful drink (heck, I'd much rather have my best recipe shot down/tweaked by an experienced pro if I learn something in the process). I'm not all that certain this recipe is retweet-worthy yet. #whatcouldntbesaidin140characters]

Now then, I admit, it's pretty brazen to call a drink something so on-the-nose, no-room-for-other-possibilities as The Rose. Why not, in this case, "Rosa Flores" for the tequila and the non-rose florals? Or some other modifier (which, I am open to if something crosses your mind)? Though then again, what else can you possibly call a cocktail where you're trying to replicate the full sensual experience of a real rose?

This recipe is actually based on one of my oldest, much more girly-girl formulas from Before I Got Serious With Mixology (hereafter known as BIGSWiM). I had fallen in love with reposado tequila at first sip - the first spirit I ever bought - and was keen to try it in margarita flavors other than lime and strawberry, the more unique the better. Browsing through online recipes, I came across a "Rose Margarita" and was offended by its sheer lack of imagination: a regular lime margarita with a dash of rose water. I think if you're going to make a Rose Margarita, it better be complete in its rose-ness. After much experimentation, I came close to the recipe below. Not understanding the function of acidity, I had swapped the lime in the margarita base for other juice: red plum and a touch of (dewy) apple, the flavors of which survived into more sophisticated ingredients.

Just to note: I'm consigning my original Rose Margarita recipe to history, and this revisionist effort has grown beyond the scope of a Margarita. But come Cinco de Mayo I'll post a much more classic-formula Rose Margarita (and complete my Rose trilogy, to boot) now that I've learned a thing or two about tequila.

The Rose

1 1/2 oz Gran Centenario Rosangel reposado tequila
1 oz calvados
1/2 oz Plymouth sloe gin
1/4 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
2 dashes plum bitters
1 piece Meyer lemon zest

Prepare the coupe glass by chilling it, then rubbing the Meyer lemon zest around the rim and inside. Reserve zest.

Stir all liquid ingredients with ice (STIR! do not shake! but give it a proper dilution to let the ingredients breathe).

Strain into the prepared coupe.

Twist Meyer lemon zest over top, maybe give it a quick swirl in the drink, and discard.

Garnish with a rose-related item (a forked sprig of mini roses, baby's breath, a few tasteful large rose petals, etc..).

Hail Aphrodite.

  1. The Rosangel is quite the muse-object. Here it contributes a rosy musk to the equation: the low notes. Should Rosangel be unavailable, I would stick with another quality reposado, Gran Centenario if at all possible. Milagro might be an option, as it has a delicate floral body, though whether that would hold up to the other ingredients is a question. Reposado itself lends a (feminine) taste-image of wood like soft doe skin or suede, and I can't think of any other base spirit in my mental list of references, save perhaps Irish whiskey, which approximates. (! oh dang, now I have to do an Irish Rose recipe..) Regardless, any other spirit than Rosangel will require an hibiscus or other musk-y floral addition.
  2. Ever stick your nose into a bunch of roses only to inhale a big apple scent? Did you know roses and apples are members of the Rosaceae family (sloes and plums too)? Calvados, in addition to its apple notes, provides body and a dryness which balances against the next two ingredients.
    • I used Boulard Grand Solage Calvados Pays d'Auge VSOP (the only calvados I've bought/tasted thus far). In testing, this calvados proved muscle-y and hot, which I found could be restrained by decanting ahead of time. Whenever I next stock up on calvados, I might see how the XO expression works here. I also tested this recipe subbing Courvoisier VSOP cognac; the result was more delicate, in line with the flower, but without the right apple notes. At any rate, for those playing around with the formula, given Rosangel is aged in French Limosin white oak barrels, a French brandy should be a natural match.
  3. Sloe gin also contributes to the body, pulls the color back from calvados-gold, and provides acidity. The faint botanicals of the base gin are like sepals. If you don't use a good quality sloe gin like Plymouth or Bitter Truth (some adjustment may be required for this brand), this recipe will not work.
  4. St. Germain brings the floral high notes. Careful not to overdo as it is both delicate and potent, and rather sweet. Florals can quickly overwhelm the palate too.
    • Note for other cocktails: the sloe gin alone added to the St. Germain "rosies it up" so to speak, in both nose and palate (and color). This may be a useful combo for other concoctions, where "rose" is desired but not rose water.
  5. Plum bitters are a natural fit: they help play up the sloe gin's acidity and their Christmas-spiciness also boosts the floral notes, all while receding into the background. I thought lemon bitters would be needed here, but a single dash dominated the flavor. Fortunately, in my final test, I happened to have a fresh Meyer lemon handy for another experiment, and the zest's oils are a nice subtle bit of acid and floral. Apparently the more the fruit "blushes", the more floral notes you'll get.
      The resulting cocktail is, for something so floral, quite quaffable. I omitted the rose water dash included in my tweeted ingredients - in the end that seemed to, er, gild the lily. It too easily dominates when the spirit ingredients on their own do so much to achieve rose-ness. Frankly, I'm proud of this bit of alchemy derived from more common straight-out-the-bottle ingredients. It leads to repeatability and endurance.

      All that said, I reserve the right to come back to this recipe should I happen upon better ingredients. Even for the years of development already put in, this is one where the platonic ideal is so. darn. close. (like I said way up above: I think the recipe's 98% there right now) And for all the potential ingredients out there, I don't yet have certain knowledge. Versioning of this, and all other recipes, will occur in separate posts for each version, with a ", take #" in the title.

      For this cocktail in particular, please, I would adore any thoughts, criticisms, modifications you might have, even if it's just a line in the comments, 20 years after the post-date. Commenters rock!

      Would you believe I have a thing for elegance?

      [Edited, 03-23-2012, to improve first picture quality (brightness, color accuracy).

      And also just to note, I'm aware I probably come off a bit confused about the quality of this drink. Instead of issuing a rambling apologetic - heaven knows this post is too long already - I'll just say: I mean everything I wrote. And if you stick with me, you may begin to see the method to my madness, in long-form narrative.]