Drink This: La Puesta del Sol

Nikki BuchananMay 1, 2023
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Photo by Adam Kindred
Photo by Adam Kindred

It seems more than coincidental that both the Tequila Sunrise and the La Puesta del Sol (translation: the setting sun) were invented and named in sunshine-prone Phoenix. But the similarities end there. While the Sunrise, created at the Arizona Biltmore in the 1930s, is a sweet, citrusy little number made for lightweights, the La Puesta del Sol, concocted some 90 years later at The Rose Garden in Downtown Phoenix, is spicy, sour and considerably more adult.

The latter cocktail (invented by recently departed barkeep Josh Jasper with a bit of input from bar manager Trey Bivens) is not based on tequila but rather sotol – a Mexican spirit distilled from the desert spoon plant, a yucca-like shrub – and the recipe is so complicated and time-consuming there’s little benefit in tackling this one at home. For starters, the RG infuses grassy sotol with hibiscus flower and Fresno chile until the mixture turns ruby red, developing tart, refreshing, faintly floral notes from the hibiscus and smoky, mildly fruity heat from the chiles. Aged Venezuelan rum adds a sticky molasses vibe as well as undertones of cinnamon and clove, while a blend of sweet vermouths brings a touch of botanicals and bitterness. To give the drink balance and a bit of tang, Bivens and crew add house-made tamarind-agave syrup (earthy and plenty sour) and a tiny splash of lime juice.

Before service, the glass is dusted with salt and chile powder, held in place with a sticky smear of house-made chamoy sauce, which reinforces the cocktail’s savory backbone. Garnished with snapdragon flower and dried Fresno chile slices, then finished with a few dashes of mole bitters, it’s a wonderfully complex, vaguely vegetal, seriously spicy cocktail that, like our Arizona sunsets, is awe-inspiring. You’ll love it with the fire of a thousand suns.


The Rose Garden

101 N. First Ave., Phoenix
602-899-2988, therosegardenaz.com