They laughed at me in the wine department at Central Market. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I used to work with them in the wine department at Central Market, so they were totally laughing at me, personally. They wouldn’t laugh at you; they’re professionals.)
I asked for a “full-flavored, full-bodied, dark-colored” rosé, reading off the frosé recipe. As this is never, ever the kind of rosé I drink, I was asked why I wanted it. When I held up the recipe and hung my head, the wine steward laughed. Out loud. At me.
“I want to be very clear,” I said, trying to defend my dignity. “I am being paid to do this.” Which made me sound like some kind of frosé whore. Great. Frosé: 2, Holly: 0.
Maybe I should back up. A few weeks ago, the recipe for this summer sipper wound up in my Facebook feed. I don’t remember if it was posted by someone else, or it was an ad. Either way, my very first impression was, “Freaking seriously?” My second impression was, “What did rosé ever do to me? And why would I do this to it?”
It then transpired that Houstonia offered to publish the story if I made the drink. Well, never one to turn down a challenge–or money for writing, for that matter–I did what any epicurean would do: I invited a bunch of people over to drink frosé. Which meant I now had to make frosé.
“Frosé?” seemed to be the general consensus, from everyone from the wine stewards at Central Market (“Why don’t you just go ahead and reinforce that stereotype that all rosés are sweet, sticky things?”), to my friend in Indianapolis (“It sounds like the finest of libations for the above-ground pool set.”), to my husband (“Why are you doing this again?”). Yes, frosé. Think a frozen margarita. With wine. With rosé, to be specific.
Now, I am not against slushy drinks. My favorite slushy drink on the planet is Del’s Frozen Lemonade, and if I am in my native Rhode Island anytime between April and October, when Del’s is open, it’s altogether possible I’ll drink the stuff three times a day. (I’ve also been known to make it at home from their mixing kit, occasionally spiking it with vodka. Good stuff.) As a general rule, though, I like my alcohol un-slushed.
Ergo, I eyed The Great Frosé Experiment with extreme trepidation. But, you know, investigative journalism. So…
Understand this: If you embark on this journey I took, you need to have a lot of time on your hands. First thing, you need to freeze the rosé. As the original recipe clearly (and correctly) states, you don’t want one of those beautiful, Provençale sipping rosés for this. That wine was not made for this; it’s too light, too elegant. You want something big and hearty. The recipe recommends a rosé of Pinot Noir or Merlot. We went with the Cantele Negroamaro, an Italian outing with flavors of ripe strawberry and crushed rose petal that we thought would hold up under the frosé-making stress.
I found myself digging around in my kitchen cabinets for a 9-inch-by-11-inch pan in which to freeze the rosé. The recipe was very specific about the 9-inch-by-13-inch. I measured my old Pyrex standby, just to be sure. Poor Pyrex, I thought. From lasagna and shepherd’s pie…to this. Finding a spot for it in the freezer proved a challenge that led to a string of expletives that caused my husband to consider fleeing our home. OK. Fine. At least the rosé was on its way to freezing now. (It won’t freeze solidly, of course, because of the alcohol content.)
Now I had six hours to kill. Or, to be accurate, at least six hours. Because the recipe says to freeze the wine for “at least six hours.”
So, if you’re thinking you’re going to do this as a little on-a-whim drink, I have news: You’re really not.
I have never in my life made simple syrup. I’ve always more or less known how; I’ve simply never had a reason to make it. Until now. It’s pretty easy: Bring a half cup of sugar and a half cup of water to a boil, stirring constantly. What’s not easy? Hulling and quartering half a pound of strawberries. You then let them steep in your simple syrup for half an hour, then strain the mixture into a bowl and let it cool for another half hour.
The prep time for this was proving frustrating; I kept hearing my wine steward pal’s voice in my ear: “You know, we sell strawberry simple syrup.” Yeah, noted.
By now, the rosé had been freezing for just about two hours. I still had four to kill. I did the math. My wine would be ready to work with at 9:30 p.m. Not happening. I threw a sheet of aluminum foil over it, turned off the kitchen light and sank into the corner of the couch with a copy of Notre Dame magazine.
The next day, more math. You have to re-freeze the frosé after you run it through the blender for—wait for it—half an hour. I felt my life, half hour by half hour being drained from me. So, if people were coming at 2 p.m., that means it needs to be ready at 1:45, so I can begin blending at… 1:15.
“What is this that you’re doing again?” my husband asked, watching me stand on tiptoe, trying to maneuver the cold Pyrex pan above the blender to scrape the rosé into the carafe. I shot him a murderous look and he slunk off to find toilet paper.
I am short. It was an act of pure stretching and contortion to “scrape the rosé into a blender.” I considered (seriously) putting putting the blender on the floor of the kitchen and ruled it out. For obvious reasons. I’m not slob, but…ewww.
I added fresh lemon juice, the three-and-a-half ounces of my took-an-hour-to-make simple syrup and a cup of took-me-longer-than-I-wanted-to-to-crush-the-ice-in-my-manual-ice-crusher ice. And pureed the hell out of that mother, just for sheer spite. I’m all for experiments in the kitchen, but this one was trying my patience. And then, I stuck it in the fridge for half an hour.
My trio of tasters arrived in time to see me “blend again until the rosé is slushy.” At last, nearly 24 hours later, this sucker was ready to drink. I divided it among martini glasses, garnished with edible flowers and handed it around.
“I would so drink this by the pool,” said one.
“It’s…good,” said another.
“I wonder if you could do it with limoncello,” pondered the third.
“I’m making a Mai Tai,” said my husband. “Anyone else?”
The drink is fine. It’s not a sticky sweet mess, which I thought it would be. It’s actually quite refreshing. The strawberry syrup gave it some sass and more color, and it certainly would be an okay way to while away an afternoon floating on a lounger in the pool. But, it was a long way to go for a drink that also wasn’t the most fantastic thing I’ve ever put in my mouth.
Never again, I said to myself. Not ever again.
I dumped the rosé, chomped on marigold, and happily accepted the Mai Tai my husband put in my hand.