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Everything's Coming Up Roses (in Cocktails)

This ain't your grandmother's rose water.
Beautiful Booze added a floral twist to the traditional Negroni with a dash of rose water.
Beautiful Booze added a floral twist to the traditional Negroni with a dash of rose water.

Perhaps no other flower has had so much symbolic meaning attached to it as the rose. From Juliet's lamentation invoking the flower in her love for Romeo to the 1980's metal band Guns N' Roses to the bud's frequent use as an emblem of political parties (the British Labour Party and French Socialist Party among them), no other flora comes close to the rose's impact on past and present pop culture.

Likewise, when it comes to culinary uses, rose flavors have been around just as long. Rose water is one of the most common and approachable ways to incorporate the floral flavor into food and drink. You'll often taste it in such Middle Eastern, Persian, and South Asian delicacies as Turkish Delight, baklava, marzipan — and cocktails. Rose water itself is easy enough to make, providing you're willing to source organic, pesticide-free petals in either dried or fresh form, but it's also readily available at most gourmet grocery stores.

Guy Ungar, a bartender at Guest Room in Tel Aviv, uses the ingredient regularly: "The use of rose water in Israel is pretty common. We have a dessert called 'Malabi' that calls for a dash of rose water in a similar fashion to cocktails."

Rose water is quite common in Israel cuisine, as well as its cocktails as well. Here, the Fair Rosalind cocktail from Tel Aviv's Guest Room incorporates London dry gin, orgeat, and a drop of rose water.

Ungar recently created the Fair Rosalind (pictured left), a delicate cocktail that lives up to its Shakespearean name. Ungar says, "I find rose water to be a very powerful aromatic element. I like floating a couple of drops of it on top of drinks. It gives a beautiful floral aroma that's quite unlike anything else."

Beautiful Booze blogger Natalie Migliarini recently created a Rose Negroni, and considers rose water a staple in her home bar. "It is such a versatile and delectable ingredient that can take an average cocktail and make it delicious," she says. "Rose water can be perfectly paired with gin and lemon juice, but I usually just add a dash in a cocktail that needs that little something special."

Up in Montreal, bar owner Kevin Demers uses rose water in very small doses, as the floral qualities can overwhelm other ingredients. His "A Rose Named Life" cocktail is currently on Cold Room's secret menu. Up in Montreal, bar owner Kevin Demers uses rose water in very small doses, as the floral qualities can overwhelm other ingredients. His "A Rose Named Life" cocktail is currently on The Coldroom's secret menu.

Kevin Demers, the owner of Montreal's The Coldroom, says working with roses has its challenges: "It's all about balance. Finding the right balance can make or break any cocktail, but especially when it's something as powerful and delicate as rose flavors." Demers considers it a seasonal flavor, explaining, "I like using it more in the spring (when things are blossoming up here in Montreal). Summer is as far as I go." His rose cocktail, "A Rose Named Life," stays on their secret menu to keep its "fairy tale" appeal.

When it comes to products, a rose petal liqueur has recently returned to the market. The revived spirit, Lanique, was very nearly lost to history when British entrepreneur Lawrence Huggler discovered the scarlet-hued spirit and promptly bought the rights, reviving the bottle for the modern era.

The Polish liqueur Lanique is made from rose petals and has a flavor similar to Turkish Delight. Photo courtesy of Lanique. The resurrected liqueur is made from rose petals and has a flavor similar to Turkish Delight. Photo courtesy of Lanique.

Lanique's branding and flavor profile was inspired by the Prussian rose liqueur, which was a popular drink for the well-heeled until WWII put an end to most high society gatherings in Eastern Europe. Try the liqueur straight, in a champagne cocktail, or in their signature cocktail, which is a refreshing highball of fresh lime juice and soda.

Fair Rosalind

by Guy Ungar of Guest Room

  • 2 oz or 60 ml London dry gin
  • 1/2 oz or 15 ml orgeat
  • 1/4 oz or 7.5 ml white sangria
  • 3/4 oz or 20 ml fresh lemon juice
  • 1 drop of rose water

Directions: Shake, double-strain into a coupe glass, and place 3 drops of rose water on top of the drink.

A Rose Named Life

by Kevin Demers of Cold Room

  • 1.5 oz Bombay Sapphire Gin
  • 0.5 oz Noilly Prat Extra Dry
  • 0.5 oz. enchanted flower syrup (hibiscus & rose hips)
  • 0.25 oz lemon juice
  • bar spoon of Butterfly Pea Extract
  • 5 drops Ms. Better Bitters Miraculous Foamer
  • 6 drops Ms. Better Bitters Mt. Fuji
  • 5 drops pistachio oil
  • Rinse glass with rose water
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