You know you’ve officially become an adult when even while unwinding with a tasty cocktail, you take your health into consideration. On that note, those who believe in the mind-body connection (mixed with a dash of indulgent fun) will love a new bar trend that has bartenders whipping up low-proof delights.
It turns out the inviting bar at Urbana, tucked away inside our Hotel Palomar in Washington, D.C., is the perfect place to savor these next-wave cocktails. While New York bartenders have been playing around with the low-ABV idea for some time now, bartender Andrea Tateosian is one of the first to happily welcome it to the District.
After four years at D.C. cocktail mecca The Gibson, Andrea arrived at Urbana in the spring, revamping the cocktail program and “making it cohesive.” She expertly blends her own style with the personality of the modern, Italian-inspired venue, highlighting Italian ingredients like amaro and vermouth.
Andrea thinks the widespread resurgence of Sherry has led bartenders to consider ways in which simplicity can define cocktails, too. In recent years, she says, drinks have been trending toward big, wild flavors that boast high amounts of alcohol, and people are ready to go back to enjoying nuanced cocktails that are not so in-your-face. Low-proof options are subtle and pleasant … fantastic for before- or after-dinner drinks.
She finds these creations to be “super playful, not so serious” (not to mention they’re easier on the liver). She likens these toned-down cocktails to an outfit, comparing it to our need to edit clothing in the mirror before we head out the door. Sometimes we need to simplify our ensemble, she says: “Maybe you don’t need four bracelets; just one. The same goes for drinks — maybe you don’t need all the crazy things, all of the time.”
She equates drinking a glass of red wine for good health to drinking a glass of vermouth; in the end, she finds both good for the spirit, mind and body. Another incentive she mentions? Sweet vermouth was Andie MacDowell’s drink of choice in Groundhog Day. Who can argue with that logic?
Low-proof cocktails prove especially perfect for summertime. You can have two or three and not need to head home for some sleep afterward, says Andrea. Her current favorite? The Bacio di Rosa, which translates to “Kiss From a Rose” — this also happens to be her favorite ’90s song and go-to karaoke number. (Check out her recipe below, while you’re humming the tune.)
The drink highlights Cocchi Americano Rosa, an Italian fortified, aromatized wine that comes from the same family as vermouth and has a tart, bitter taste. Andrea describes it as super light and refreshing; Italians drink it merely with soda, shaved iced and thyme.
Bacio di Rosa
1½ ounces Cocchi Americano Rosa
½ ounce of thyme-lemon syrup (see below)
Serve in a white wine glass and top with ice, soda water, a few sprigs of thyme, and a lemon twist.
To make the syrup:
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, and add the zest (using a grater) of 1 lemon. Wash and add a handful of thyme, and take the water off the heat to let it all mix together for 10 minutes. Add 3 cups of sugar, then stir until sugar has dissolved. Strain out all the undesirable bits and voilà!