The Rebirth of the Ruby Cocktail

The Rebirth of the Ruby Cocktail
Pomegranate Fizz. Styling by Nikita Singh Photographer: Justin Govender

Cocktails with a rouge hue conjure thoughts of sickly sweet daiquiris and shots of strawberry lips. Notoriously labelled ‘ladies’ drinks’, the saccharine spirits have shaped a bad reputation for the colour pink.

Mixology has progressed since the Sex and the City style cosmopolitans of the Nineties. Pink and ruby drinks don’t have to be sweet. They can have notes of bitterness, acidity, and complex layers of flavour.

In the spirit of amore, serve a luscious rosy cocktail to complement any meal.

Keep it cool

Julian Short, owner of concealed bar Sin + Tax in Rosebank, says the secret to a good cocktail is balance and temperature.

Water and ice are important ingredients that people often forget,” he says.

For example, drinks that require more dilution would have crushed ice as opposed to big ice cubes.

Short’s favourite cocktail at the moment is a Boulevardier – basically a negroni with bourbon instead of gin. Big ice cubes are used to retain the flavour and intensity of the bourbon.


Boulevardier. Food stylist: Nikita Singh. Photographer: Justin Govender

Serves 2

  • 2 parts bourbon
  • 2 parts Campari
  • 2 parts sweet vermouth
  • 2 orange peel twists, to garnish
  • ice

Combine bourbon, Campari, and vermouth in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake vigorously for 20 seconds. Strain into two rocks glasses with just one or two large ice cubes. Garnish with an orange peel twist.

Meal pairing: Charcuterie and cheese board

Short says digestif-style cocktails (drinks with amaro or vermouth) can be paired with rich food. They cut through the richness without detracting from the flavour of the meal.

Master the basics, then get experimental

Workshop 55, a tapas and cocktail bar in Parktown North, specialises in gin infusions, but their expert bartenders can design a cocktail to suit any palate. Siyabonga Dumisa, a mixologist at Workshop 55, will recommend a gin based on your personal taste: sweet, citrus, spicy, or herbaceous.

I prefer using my nose, I pick gins better when I smell them. You pick up more on the nose than the palate,” says Dumisa.

Dumisa explains that classic cocktails are built according to a 2:1:1 ratio. Specifically:

2 parts spirit : 1 part liqueur : 1 part citrus or sugar syrup.

Take a basic margarita, for example:

2 parts tequila : 1 part Cointreau : 1 part lime juice.

Once you have the balance right, you can start adjusting and adding a twist to traditional recipes. A paloma, the blushing cousin of the traditional margarita, includes fresh grapefruit juice and soda water for a refreshing twist.


Paloma. Food stylist: Nikita Singh. Photographer: Justin Govender

Serves 2

  • 1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup blanco tequila
  • 1/2 cup soda water
  • ice
  • thin slices of lime, to garnish

Combine grapefruit juice, lime juice and sugar in two tall glasses and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in tequila, add ice cubes, and top off with soda water. Garnish with lime.

Meal pairing: Tapas, like spicy chorizo and patatas bravas

Citrus based drinks cut through rich, spicy food and act as a palate cleaser. The citrus in the cocktail complement the lemon and lime often used in Spanish and Mexican cuisines.

People used to say you drink red wine with meat, but it’s not like that any more. There’s no rule of thumb any more,” says Workshop 55 owner Gary Soalheiro.

You can pair any liquor with food, but make sure the additional flavours and garnishes don’t overpower the taste of the spirit.

Orange peel complements and brings out the aromas in a whiskey,” says Dumisa.

A garnish is used for its visual appeal, flavour, and aroma. A garnish isn’t just a pretty flower on a drink, it should play a sensory role in completing the cocktail. In a pomegranate gin fizz, the ruby jewels look beautiful, but they also add a tart burst of flavour when bitten into.

Pomegranate Gin Fizz

Pomegranate Fizz. Styling by Nikita Singh Photographer: Justin Govender

Serves 2

An affordable dry, bubbly drink.

  • 1 shot gin
  • 2 shots fresh pomegranate juice
  • Prosecco
  • Pomegranate seeds, to garnish

In a small jug, mix gin and pomegranate juice and pour into two coup glasses. Top up with prosecco and garnish with pomegranate seeds.

Meal pairing: Creamy seafood linguine

Prosecco pairs well with seafood and shellfish. A good dry Prosecco is light-bodied and slightly acidic, to complement the delicate flavours of fresh seafood. DM

Food stylist: Nikita Singh

Photographer: Justin Govender


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