The Perfect Tequila Cocktail for a Romantic Dinner: Rositas

The Perfect Tequila Cocktail for a Romantic Dinner: Rositas
Courtesy of Cocktailia‍

Taking the Negroni a little further.

There are many inventions that have been lost, or nearly lost, to time throughout history. Damascus steel, Greek fire, Roman concrete, the list goes on and on. It is rare for civilizations to lose knowledge in this manner, but it does happen. To be fair, not all inventors drink as heavily as bartenders tend to, so it’s even more rare that an invention is lost or forgotten by the inventor themselves.

In a Negroni cocktail variation called a Rosita, Gary "Gaz" Regan was introduced to tequila, sweet vermouth, Campari, dry vermouth, and bitters by a friend. According to the friend, Gary "Gaz" Regan liked the drink and asked where it came from, to which the friend replied, "I learned it from Terry Sullivan, who wrote an article in GQ in 1999."

It was Gary Regan himself who taught Sullivan the origins of the drink, more than 15 years earlier in his book The Bartender's Bible: 1001 Mixed Drinks, which Regan had written himself.

Among the many things to focus on here is the amusing story of forgetfulness, the idea that 1001 cocktails is too many to discuss in one sitting, and the empowering idea that sometimes, all we really need is ourselves. The Rosita seems so delicious that he was impressed twice by it, as I take from the tale.

As a result of its seductive and complex nature, the Rosita is a perfect aperitif before a romantic dinner, despite common misconceptions that it substitutes for a Margarita. Despite its lighter weight than a Negroni, it's still full-flavored, so it's in accordance with Dan Savage's recommendations for Valentine's Day. 

This is the Rosita's great quality: it's both sumptuous and lean at the same time. With the reposado tequila being slumbering in oak barrels for a short period of time, its vanilla-tinged flavor is complemented by bittersweet orange from the Campari, and the racy bitters spice it up and the herbaceous vermouth drys it out with its plush and vanilla-tinged flavors.

The Rosita wasn’t really invented by Regan, as it turned out. In 2007, he published a second edition of the recipe with a charming admission of mild embarrassment and he admitted his mild embarrassment. It was found in the 1988 edition of Mr. Boston Official Bartender Guide, but its pedigree is unclear. Reagan popularized it, adding a single dash of bitters and upping the proportion of tequila, something he must have originally done for his book, and then repeated nearly two decades later.

He wrote, like admiring the Pantheon or hearing a Stradivarius, "Wonders never cease," after recounting this story about the Rosita, which he had found and lost and found again.


  • 1.5 oz. reposado tequila
  • 0.5 oz. Campari
  • 0.5 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 0.5 oz. dry vermouth
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters

The ingredients should be added to a mixing glass with ice and stirred for five to ten seconds to 25 to 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice or up, in a coupe. Garnish with some grapefruit peel.


Courtesy of Craft Gin Club

It's common to see recipes that call for blanco or reposado tequila. Blanco isn't bad, but I think you'll want to age the tequila a bit, so the oak flavor meets the spice in the bitters, and the vanilla flavor meets the Campari richness. My personal favorite for cocktail work is probably Olmeca Altos Reposado, but too much age is predictable too much, and bogs down the drink. I suspect any reposado you enjoy will also work well here, but I enjoy most reposado. Fortaleza Reposado is a great bottle to sip on and a great splurge.

There are essentially no differences between Regan’s version and mine in his 2007 article, except that Regan adds an entire ounce of Campari instead of half a cup. This pushes the Rosita hard into Negroni territory, with its accompanying bitterness and sweetness. This is a good cocktail, but as stated above, I think it really shines when it’s in balance.

If you're looking for a Rosita with a sweet vermouth flavor, this is your biggest choice. It helps the Rosita become what I think it best is its light and lean self when I use Dolin Sweet Vermouth, which is unusually light and lean. A great drink can also be made with Carpano Antica, which is quite fuller, but still manages to be cohesive and beautiful. There are some brands that take the drink too far in one direction or another, like Punt e Mes with its bitter chocolate version and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino with its vanilla version. Both are delicious, but they seem like spin-offs.

In general, dry vermouth is used to extend flavors and add some dry herbaceousness, which all brands will do. I suspect this is the one variable I did not toggle in my tests. You could use any dry vermouth and it would be fine. My perennial favorite is Dolin Dry Vermouth, but I admit I admit I admit I admit this is the one variable I did not toggle in my tests.

A bit of bitterness isn't strictly necessary, but the drink still tastes great without it. Angostura adds a dry cinnamon spice in the midpalate that lasts through the finish, adding some maturity and complexity. It would appear that Bitterman's Mole Bitters would be a good match for this drink, but it is too delicate and pretty for something so intense.

In traditional cocktail culture, lemon peels are used as garnishes, but that's not the right choice, too bright, too much sunshine for a cocktail this seductive. I personally prefer a grapefruit peel. If you aren't as fond of bitter things, use an orange peel.

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