I have had a cotton candy cocktail exactly once, at the dinosaur-themed bar/restaurant, T-Rex Cafe, in Downtown Disney Orlando. I had been drinking gin and soda most of the night, enjoying the giant octopus that hovered over the bar, when I was suddenly struck with the urge to order the T-Rex Exclusive!, a "mixture of cotton candy and spirits. This new T-REX discovery is available in three amazing flavors."
Maybe it was the visual of a dinosaur holding a novelty shaker full of cotton and candy and booze in its short little arms, but I needed to order this ridiculous beverage. Unable to commit to an entire glass of the sweet stuff, I asked the very nice, very accommodating bartender to make me a "shot sized" version, which was basically just a tuft of aggressively pink cotton candy in one small glass next to a shot of citrus-flavored vodka.
I did not like it very much.
Maybe it's because I had the lowbrow version of the cotton candy cocktail. This rose gold–flecked, effervescent version is a bit more refined, though still a bit frivolous.
I am forever having a hard time drawing lines with food and beverage gimmicks. Why am I entranced by Mac 'n' Cheetos yet horrified by the rainbow bagel? Why was I inspired to make my own Doritos Loaded, yet completely uninterested in the mechanics behind crafting the raindrop cake?
At first glance, the answer appears to be "cheese," but I think it has more to do with form vs. function. The rainbow bagel looks cool, but the swirly, psychedelic explosion of food coloring isn't adding anything, taste-wise. The same criticism could be applied to the raindrop cake; it's neat looking, but literally tasteless (because water is defined as tasteless, and this is a water-flavored confection).
This cotton candy in this cocktail isn't purely there for looks — it obviously contributes sweetness — but it's almost there, which is why I can't seem to make up my mind about it. I do know that I'm never really a fan of gold in food or beverages, because I just can't think of a good reason for it to be there.
Also, there's the fact that this "cocktail" doesn't seem to have any alcohol in it, as it is San Pellegrino that's poured over the fluffy stuff, not sparkling wine. Obviously, for this to be a true cocktail, there needs to be alcohol, so just imagine that all sparkling water is actually sparkling wine. (That's how I stay hydrated, actually — imagining anything sparkling is sparkling wine.)
All of that being said, if you were going to put cotton candy in a cocktail, fancy cotton candy company Sugaire is the way to go. Though I'd personally skip the Rose Gold flavor, there are plenty of other "artisanal" spun sugar options like Banana Cream Pie, Spicy Mango Chili, and birthday cake. Such fancy flavors might be enough to convince me to try another cotton candy cocktail.
What do you all think? Is the cotton candy cocktail too precious? Is there just too much whimsy? Or are you super into it?