Bottles of Rosé Tequila / Photo by Tom Arena
With hues that span from a delicate carnation blush to a deep grapefruit-flesh glow, a new crop of distinctly pink tequilas has arrived.
Often called “rosa” or “rosado,” these expressions are mostly achieved by resting tequila in casks that previously held red wines. While not a direct marriage of tequila and rosé wine, the crossover is definitely part of the appeal.
“People do indeed drink with their eyes,” says Richard Betts, cofounder of Casa Komos Beverage Group, which released Komos Tequila Reposado Rosa in 2021. The spirit was aged in a mix of wine barrels from Napa and Sonoma. Betts spotlights how the barrels from Hirsch Vineyards, known for its Pinot Noir, contributed layers of juicy berry and pink peppercorn against a lively agave backdrop.
Yet, the rosé boom isn’t the only reason tequila makers are thinking pink. Certainly, the red-hot tequila market is ripe for experimentation.
It’s also recognition that, in Mexico, many distilleries have used red wine casks for decades, even though most tequilas that reach the U.S. market are rested in ex-whiskey barrels. That practice is a byproduct of the abundance of once-used barrels from U.S. bourbon distillers.
Codigo 1530 credits Mexico’s Tequila tradition in developing its Rosa offering. The brand now works with approximately 15 Napa wineries, including Gemstone and Outpost, to source Cabernet Sauvignon barrels to add nuanced floral notes to its blanco and Double Barrel Rosa Reposado expressions.
So is Calirosa, which uses a mix of Cabernet and Merlot barrels sourced from Napa and Sonoma. The Rosa is finished for 30 days in red wine barrels, while the añejo is aged in ex-wine barrels for 18 months. Both launched in 2021.
Of course, not all rosé tequila is tinted via California casks. Some, like Gran Centenario Rosangel, use ex-Port pipes, while Caramba Pink Silver and Asombroso La Rosa rely on Bordeaux casks. And at least one, Casa Rica Rosado, uses no wine cask at all, just agave that developed a natural “pink stain” during the composting process.
Ultimately, rosy-hued tequilas are about more than just the color. “Pink isn’t enough on its own,” says Betts. “But if it’s pink because it carries flavor, that’s a good reason.”