It doesn’t take a gin expert to notice the “pink gin” trend. Whether roaming the local grocery store or spotting advertisements online and in magazines, the notion of pink gin has spread around the world. But what exactly is pink gin? Is it the same as traditional London Dry, only with pink coloring? Or perhaps it’s similar to what spirits like vodka and whiskey have done, where flavors are combined to create reduced alcohol but increased flavor drink? You can find all of your pink gin questions answered right here.
What Is Pink Gin
Despite its recent emergence in popularity, pink gin has been around for some time now. In fact, pink gin first sprung into popularity during the mid 19th century. However, the gin was not made pink by manufacturers and distillers. Instead, it was made at home. Traditional pink gin is made using Plymouth gin with an added dash of Angostura bitters.
Angostura bitters is a creation that combines a number of herbs, spices, and gentian (which is a kind of flower). These bitters have a deeper, red appearance, so when a few dashes of Angostura bitters are added to a glass of gin, it turns the liquid pink.
Now, the exact date and time of pink gin’s origin are up for some debate, but as is the case with most things gin, it’s believed to connect with the British Royal Navy. As you might already know, drinks like gin and tonic hail from the British navy as gin was often safer to drink, helped keep sickness away, and the lime (or other forms of citrus) were good at preventing scurvy.
Of course, there’s only so much you can do with gin while sailing around India or patrolling other waters for months at a time. You need something that will add some flavor to the gin without taking up much space. Angostura bitters is one fine option. It takes up little space, doesn’t require refrigeration (which wasn’t an option at the time), and, unlike limes, the bitters will not spoil as quickly. In fact, Angostura bitters were used to help treat certain forms of seasickness, so these bitters were kept on board anyway.
So, when sailors were starting to feel seasick they would add the bitters to their gin, which gave it the pink appearance. In general, the earliest form of pink gin used Plymouth gin, which is sweeter (at least traditionally) than London Dry gin.
As British sailors moved about the world, they often requested certain drinks be made in these far off regions. This is one of the main reasons why other gin cocktails have sprung up around the world (such as the Singapore Sling). This helped spread the popularity of Pink Gin around the world.
Best Pink Gin: Top 6 Pink Gin Brands
Here is a gin that takes on its pink appearance thanks to the fresh raspberries that are hand-steeped in the gin. This is a dry gin with an excellent finish that is both smooth and just a touch of fruity.
Here is a gin that sounds like a daiquiri in a bottle. It’s not, of course, as it still has a number of traditional gin botanicals, but it does take on its pink color with the help of both strawberry and a hint of lime. It is a lighter gin, and Kopparberg even sells it in can form, so you already have a pre-mixed cocktail ready to serve.
Terres de Mistral Provence Gin
This pin gin takes its color from the additional pink grapefruit. This helps give the gin a wonderfully subtle citrus note, which mixes with the already present mint and fennel exceptionally well. This is a great gin for when you typically add lemon to your cocktail (such as a gin and tonic or a lemon-rimmed martini).
Limehouse likes to keep its exact recipe under wraps for the added ingredients. This particular gin, which hails out of London, uses, what the company refers to as “fresh red fruits.” It is on the sweeter side, so there’s a good chance there are raspberry and strawberry in it, as well as possibly a dash of red grapefruit to help neutralize a bit of the sweetness with the tartness of the grapefruit.
Malfy Gin Rosa
This gin is referred to as “Rosa”, or “pink” in Italian. It uses Sicilian pink grapefruits which are made locally (and if you ever have the chance, sample a Sicilian pink grapefruit, as you’ll find it is substantially different from the large pink grapefruits found in California or Florida). Rhubarb is also used within this gin to help give it the “rosa” color tone.
Gordon’s Premium Pink
When it comes to inexpensive price points, you really can’t find something for a better price than Gordon’s (while maintaining the quality). This particular pink gin uses the original Gordon gin while introducing strawberries and raspberries, plus some tartness from red currents to give it a vibrant, pink appearance.
How to Make Pink Gin?
So maybe you haven’t found a pink gin that fits your needs. Or perhaps you have a favorite gin you absolutely love but the distiller doesn’t craft pink gin. That’s not a problem at all. It isn’t all that difficult to make pink gin yourself. After all, if some British sailors could make the drink in the middle of the ocean 200 years ago, you shouldn’t have any issue doing the same at home with a full kitchen.
Rhubarb is one of those ingredients you either love or hate. If you love it, you’ll love this pink rhubarb gin recipe. This particular recipe will take four weeks of infusing, so if you’re planning on using this for a party, make it at least a month in advance:
- 1 bottle gin
- 1kg pink rhubarb stalks
- 400g caster sugar (avoid golden or brown sugar)
Wash the rhubarb and trim the stalks. Cut into smaller pieces then place in a jar with the sugar. Let sit overnight. Now, pour in the gin, shake and let it sit for four weeks.
Rose Infused Gin
This recipe will give your gin a significantly different taste than all the other fruit options on this list. If you enjoy a floral gin cocktail, this is a great way to go. You’ll need some time with this method as well. In many ways, it’s like seeping tea the old fashion way (leaving it out in the sun). To make this recipe you’ll need:
- 1 cup dry rosebuds
- 1 bottle (750ml) of gin
Pour the gin and the rosebuds into a jar, then let it sit for at least five days. Every day, rotate the jar a few times to mix the roses up. After 5 days you’re good to go.
This recipe will take three weeks of infusing. But it’s well worth the wait. To make it you’ll need:
- 400g sliced strawberries
- 1 bottle of gin
- 100g caster sugar
Ideally, you’ll use fresh strawberries for this. If you can’t find any, pick up unsweetened frozen strawberries and let them thaw. Then add the strawberries and sugar into a large jaw, then add the gin and let it sit for at least two weeks (three is better).
Like the strawberry gin, you’ll need two to three weeks of steeping time. You’ll also want to go with fresh raspberries, when possible. To make the recipe you’ll need:
- 1 bottle of gin
- 150g sugar
- 350g raspberries
Mix the raspberries and sugar. Add in the gin and let it sit for two to three weeks. Turn the jar once a day to keep the sugar mixed.
If you want you can use just gin, pomegranates and caster sugar. But there is a very interesting spiced alternative you can make as well (recipe to follow).
To make the regular pomegranate gin:
- Juice from 3 pomegranates
- 350g caster sugar
- 1 bottle of gin
Mix juice and sugar in a jar, then add in gin and let sit for two weeks.
To make the spiced version, add:
- juice of 1 clementine
- 200ml pomegranate juice
- 12 peppercorns
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 4 star anise
- Use liter of gin
This is a great mixed gin for the winter holidays.
Cherry Infused Gin
To make the cherry-infused gin you’ll need:
- Cup of cut-up cherries
- Bottle of gin
Combine in a jar and let sit for two weeks. If you used tart, sugar-free cherries you may want to add in 100g of sugar.
For this recipe, you’ll ideally want to purchase pink grapefruit. To make it you’ll need:
- 2 medium pink grapefruits
- 1 bottle gin
Juice the grapefruits and add into a jar. Also, zest the grapefruit and add this as well. Pour in the gin and let sit for a month, then strain out the grapefruit contents.
Enjoy Your Pink Gin
Once you have created the pink gin you can now use it in your favorite cocktail. Try it with a gin and tonic first to get a better sense of what the bitters do to the taste of your gin. With so many pink gins out there you owe it to yourself to taste the different offerings and discover for yourself which you like the best. Just like regular gins, every brand is unique and offers something the other brands don’t. So if you’re ready, now is the perfect time to dive deeper into the world of pink gin.