Why the Rosita—Not the Margarita—Is the Perfect Summer Cocktail
Summer will make you do things you should not do. You will make questionable fashion choices. You will stay out later than is advisable—it's such a perfect night, why waste it? You will fall for people you should not fall for, because the sun is shining just so, the air is coming in off the ocean, and the heat has worn you down. You can sort out the details later. You will drink in the heat, more than you should. Your drink will taste like the sweet nectar of life, like sugar and fruit and the salt in the air.
But it will almost always be an objectively bad drink; another consequence of summer is we put our palates, dulled by the sensory overload of the season, on temporary hiatus. I do not want any of this. I am not doing summer anymore, and I am not doing summer drinking. At least not as it is typically done. Do not bring me a margarita. Do not ask me how I'd like my daiquiri. (Fine, Hemingway-style, if you insist.) Let the flies gather about the rim of the sangria pitcher—they'll enjoy it more than me. I am drinking my Rosita.
After two solid decades of returns to the classics, riffs on the classics, the regrettable molecular episode, and revivals of the renaissance of the return to the classics, many of us have simplified our outlook on what should, and should not, go into a summer cocktail. For my part, that means lifting my head off the bar—and out from my own behind—to follow a few streamlined rules:
1. A cocktail doesn't need more than three or four ingredients.
2. If it doesn't have Campari in it, I'm not particularly interested.
The Rosita bridges the weeks between wintery cocktail complexity and the citrusy, vegetal notes of warm weather tequila. It is the cousin of the ur-cocktail, the elegant Negroni. I recommend taking it one step further, however, by subbing in mezcal as the base. There's magic at work as the dark, burnt citrus bitterness of Campari intermingles with a deep, smoky mezcal. When rounded out by the fortifying aromatics of both sweet and dry vermouth, it is an extraordinarily alluring sip that has one foot in Mexico and the other in Europe.
If you order a Rosita at a bar, and it is prepared with no questions asked, odds are you are in good hands. (Gaz Regan reintroduced it into canon after finding it in the1988 edition of Mr. Boston Official Bartender's Guide, and from there it made its way across the country in a game of boozy phone tag.) If not, you can share the recipe. It couldn't be easier to prepare. The summer is arriving imminently. It is singing its siren-song of bad decision making, debauchery, and mischief. You will give in, as one always does, but this time with a proper cocktail.
The Rosita Recipe
1.5 oz. mezcal
.5 oz. sweet vermouth
.5 oz. dry vermouth
.5 oz. Campari
1 dash Angostura bitters
Stir over ice, and strain into an old fashioned glass. Wipe the rim of the glass with lemon or grapefruit twist.