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A Hot Topic: Spicy Rosé

We talk to the originator of this TikTok trend and get insight from sommeliers

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Recently, I watched a TikTok of digital creator and blogger Allyssa Marshall (@allyssainthekitchen) slicing a jalapeño and, to my horror, plopping a sliver into a glass of rosé. Marshall proceeded to take a long sip and smile, the jalapeño bobbing at the surface like a little green lifebuoy. The video exploded into a viral sensation with a—surprisingly—overwhelmingly positive response from viewers. In that moment, the spicy rosé trend was born.

My initial reaction to spicy rosé was to put my phone down and say “That’s enough internet for today,” but after seeing how much people loved the pairing, I reached out to her so she could explain herself. 

“I was doing a happy hour livestream on TikTok one night, sipping rosé, when one of my followers dared me to add a jalapeño into my glass,” Marshall says. “Incapable of passing up a dare, I dropped a couple slices in and the rest is history.”

Marshall says she didn’t expect to enjoy it, but was pleasantly surprised. Now she can’t imagine drinking rosé without jalapeños.“The taste, to put it simply, is rosé with a hint of spice,” she says. “Jalapeños are generally mid-level heat, so the kiss of spice from the pepper compliments the crisp, sweet taste of the rosé.”

She points out that the longer the pepper sits in the wine, the spicier it gets. So if you’re looking to crank up the heat level… You know what to do. 

@allyssainthekitchen

Have you ever tried a jalapeño slice in your rosé?

♬ Strange Habits – Kristen

The History of The Heat

This type of infusion isn’t exactly new. Around 200 B.C., water around Spain was contaminated and considered unsafe to drink, so people would add a splash of alcohol to kill the bacteria. After Spain was invaded by the Romans in 218 B.C., vineyards began popping up across the Iberian Peninsula. Desperate to disguise the terrible taste of the water and alcohol mixture (called ‘table wine’), citizens began to use grapevines from the vineyard to muddle the flavors. Incorporating complementary fruits and spices like citrus and cinnamon eventually culminated in the birth of red wine punch called sangria.

It’s not exactly the same as plopping a jalapeño in a glass, but similar. 

The spicy rosé is also reminiscent of the spicy margarita. That drink’s history is more of a mystery, with no concrete origin story. One theory is that it was concocted at San Francisco Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in the early 2000s. Owner Julio Bermejo began infusing blanco tequila with habanero peppers and rewarded customers who drank four shots of it by writing their name on the bottle. The unique liquor infusion traveled and eventually became the spicy margarita. 

The Experts Speak Spice

Andrea Morris, beverage director of Union Square Cafe and certified sommelier, says while she’s perfectly fine sipping wine without any green floaties, she understands why TikTok went crazy for spicy rosé. “The internet loves a crazy food trend that can be done at home for relatively cheap,” Morris says. “Like the whipped Dalgona coffee trend. Plus, rosé looks great in photos.”

Morris also brought up wine varieties with pyrazine, a compound with notes of savory bell pepper. Pryazine is found in the Bordeaux family of grapes, including Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Carménère, and Malbec.

However, according to Mary-Frances Heck, who oversees the food and nutrition at Outside and trained as a sommelier in New York City,  a high presence of bell pepper flavor is considered a fault in wines. “Historically, green pepper flavor is not considered great in wine,” she says. “It’s almost something people try to avoid in wine because it indicates that the grapes weren’t quite right when they were pressed. However, when you’re looking for a fresh, zippy flavor, that little bit of spice from a jalapeño pepper could start to draw out the fresh notes in rosé.”

All in all, spicy rosé is a fun summery drink with a little zhoosh to it. 

“At the end of the day, if it’s getting people to discover wine, I’m not mad at it,” Morris says. “An issue with getting younger people into wine is that it can seem unapproachable, so I hope this can help lower the barrier to entry.” 

Plainly put, it’s a fun wine trend — we can’t get too serious about it.

“I’m a strong proponent of, ‘Drink what you like’,” Heck says. “So if this tastes good to you, more power to you.”

As someone who was vehemently opposed to the idea at first, I didn’t mind the flavor profile. However, I don’t think I’ll be making it part of my happy hour menu, mostly because rosé isn’t my first choice of wine. If you can ignore the pepper floating under your nose while you drink, though, I’d say it’s worth a try.