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I must admit that I know very little about Cinco de Mayo. (My main focus in May is Syttende Mai, Norway’s Constitution Day. It’s a very big deal. Anyway...) Though many assume Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day, it is in fact a commemoration of a battle won against the French. It’s not a major holiday in Mexico, and only really grew into its own as a holiday in California. However, in most of the United States, it really seems to be an excuse to drink margaritas and eat tortilla chips with guacamole.
The point I’m dancing around here is that I don’t believe the margarita element of celebrating Cinco de Mayo is in any way sacred. So why not make a different tequila drink to go with your chips this year?
I first had the Rosita at a bar in Austin. Normally I don’t gravitate toward tequila cocktails, but since I was in Austin, I felt like I should make an exception to this rule. With the Rosita, I was instantly struck by its elegance, and surprised because it was the first tequila cocktail I’d ever had that didn’t transport me back to unfortunate memories from college. The Rosita applies some of the trappings of the Negroni, rather than the typical lime and salt, to the earthen funk of tequila.
It stirs together reposado tequila, Campari, dry and sweet vermouth, and a single dash of Angostura bitters—and it feels sophisticated, but is still very drinkable, and certainly celebratory enough if you’re in the mood to celebrate.
The version of the drink I make is from Gary Regan’s (of Regan’s Bitters) book The Bartender’s Bible, which was published back in 1991. Amusingly, the recipe resurfaced in 2007 when another cocktail writer, Terry Sullivan, wrote an article about it. Regan read the article and made the drink for some of his friends, who asked him where the recipe came from. Regan told them he had no idea, but that he would press Sullivan to find out. A couple days later, Sullivan got back to him reporting that it was from his own book. And while many cocktails from books written in the 90s are best left un-resurfaced, the Rosita fully deserves rediscovery. And a side of tortilla chips.
- 1 1/2 ounces reposado tequila
- 1 ounce Campari
- 1/2 ounce dry vermouth (I recommend Dolin dry)
- 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth (I recommend Cocchi Vermouth di Torino)
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- Lemon twist, for garnish
Preferred non-margarita tequila drink: Go! (In the comments below.)