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Behind the Bottle

The rosé spirit boom

Pink drinks are here to stay. The evidence is all around us — from entire rosé sections in wine shops to endless merchandise available (shirts, signs, wine glasses, candles and more) emblazoned with phrases like “Rosé All Day” and “Yes Way Rosé!” 

While the “drink pink” mentality might have started with the soaring popularity of rosé wine over the last 10 years, the demand for pink-hued drinks is now spilling over into the spirits industry. These days, rosé isn’t just relegated to your wine fridge; you can add colorful bottles of pink tequilas, pink gins, and pink vodkas to your liquor cabinet, too.

These spirits get their rosy coloring in various ways, but one thing they all share is a promising future. According to a report from IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, the volume of pink gins on shelves grew 16 percent in 2016, and pink tequilas experienced a similar 17 percent increase last year.

“This is just the beginning of what we forecast to be a major pink spirits boom,” says Ally Friedman, brand manager for Calirosa Tequila, which launched the first-ever National Rosa Tequila Day on September 14th. “Eventually, we believe that rosa tequila will be a staple in every tequila portfolio lineup.”

There’s no denying the fact that pink drinks have market power, which can partially be credited to their eye-catching nature on social media. “It’s no secret that brightly colored cocktails and spirits catch the eye of the consumer,” says Dave Gade, head distiller for Colorado’s Deviation Distilling. “In terms of Instagram, some of our top performing posts include our Citrus Rosé gin.”

But are these rosé-colored spirits any good? Or are we all just wearing rosé-colored glasses?

“Pink spirits have such great shelf appeal simply because of their color. And if you have a pink spirit that tastes great on top of being pink, you really have a winner,” says Jake Sherry, founder and distiller for Isolation Proof in the Catskills region of New York. The gin-only distillery first released their seasonal pink-hued gin in the summer of 2020, which quickly sold out, and has done so every year since. The rosé gin gets its coloring primarily from hibiscus flowers (not a synthetic dye like Red No. 20) and herbaceous, spicy pink peppercorns. The unique ingredients not only add color, they add complexity as well. 

Hibiscus is a go-to ingredient for many liquor brands making a pink spirit, including Gran Centenario’s Rosangel Tequila and Collective Arts’ rhubarb and hibiscus gin, but it’s not the only way distillers achieve the right coloring in their pink spirits. Deviation Distilling uses a cochineal coloring agent obtained from the cochineal insect, which lives on cactus plants and the Canary Islands. To each batch of their Citrus Rosé gin, they add a certain amount of cochineal coloring (the original way Campari got its distinctive red coloring) to achieve a light pink hue that rivals that of a Provence rosé. 

Other brands utilize old wine barrels to impart some of the pinkish hue. That’s how Calirosa Tequila, partly funded by musician Adam Levine, gets their rosa blanco tequila to exude a delicate rosy hue. The tequila spends one month in red wine barrels, which impart a light coloring and berry aromas, resulting in a spirit that, once bottled, resembles a wine you might find poolside during a summer in the Hamptons.

As for how to utilize this new crop of pink spirits in cocktails, treat them with some degree of care. A pink tequila would both taste nice and look appealing in a margarita or paloma, but might get lost if mixed with a darker juice or spirit. Pink gins are delightfully aromatic and pretty in a Gin & Tonic, but the novelty of a rosé-hued gin would be wasted if used to make a Negroni, for example, where the dark ruby color of sweet vermouth and Campari would wash out what the gin brings to the table.

However you choose to enjoy pink spirits, be comforted in knowing one thing is certain: Pink spirits have a colorful future ahead. “I can’t imagine them going away anytime soon,” says Sherry.

Shelby Vittek is a New York-based food and drink writer. Her work has appeared in Wine Enthusiast, Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, VinePair,, Modern Farmer and Smithsonian Magazine, among others.

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