Pink gin's popularity has been steadily growing in the past few years. It is one of the favourites here at Driftwood Distillery too. With pink gin making its way to the top of the charts, it is time for us to figure out why pink gin has become so popular and what makes it different from other types of gins. Is just a marketing gimmick or gin to take seriously?
First let's tackle the issue of whether a pink gin should be sweet.
Pink gin is now enjoying a resurgence in popularity. The modern pink gin trend started in the '90s and today's Pink gins are often sweetened, such as Hendrick's pink or Masons pink which also have fruit and floral flavours (such as rose petal) added post distillation. But a pink gin doesn't always need to be sweetened. In fact the history of pink gin dates back well before the 1990s and most weren't that sweet at all.
Pink gin was first invented in the late 1700s. Pink gin was drunk by sailors in the Royal Navy. The pink colour came from carnelian cherry juice that would be added to a small amount of gin and diluted with water, and fondly called pink grog.
By 1720 pink gin had become a popular drink in England and was used by those who wanted to show off their wealth. The trend continued, with pink gin becoming more popular as it became associated with luxury and affluence.
Pink gin was used for medicinal purposes by the British army during World War I. In the colonies, Pink gin was used to help prevent malaria and was made by British soldiers in India who added quinine, a plant that has antimalarial properties. The quinine turned the gin pink but not sweet!
Around WWI people started making pink gins using sweeter, fruitier elements which brings us back to today and the question; will a pink gin always be sweet?
The answer is; it depends! It depends on whether the gin is turned pink through fruit or bitters.
What are Cocktail bitters?
Cocktail bitters are the aromatic ingredients that add flavor to a cocktail in addition to alcohol. The base alcohol of bitters is always some type of high-proof alcohol, such as gin or whiskey and I prefer to use grain neutral spirit so that we start with a blank canvas! They typically contain quinine, which gives pink gin its pink hue as well as adding some bitterness to balance out any sweetness present in other elements of the cocktail. Bitters can be made using many ingredients. Popular today are citrus bitters, which are made with lemon or orange peel but I also make chocolate bitters, floral bitters and herbal bitters. They all add a little something extra to your cocktail creations. The most famous bitters is Angostura bitters, which is the trademarked bitters of Angostura, a company that has been making them for more than 200 years. The recipe for Angostura bitters is a closely guarded secret, but it is said to include some of the bark from a South American tree amongst other native ingredients of the islands.
What is Driftwood Distillery's rose finch gin like?
Rose Finch gin is Driftwood Distillery's pink gin and it is one of our best sellers. I decided to go down the route of adding spicy orange bitters to my Rose Finch gin after distilling it. I use the ultra smooth JVS Navy Strength gin recipe as the base, but lower the alcohol content to 45% and then add in the bitters after it has been distilled. This gives it a smooth soft feel in the mouth and light floral notes at the beginning of the sip. Don't be fooled, however, this gin can stand up on its own and spicier notes come through towards the back of the palate. What I love about Rose Finch gin is that both the character on the bottle and the gin inside the bottle break the convention of pink gins. Don't be fooled by first appearances. Take the time to make up your own mind!
Pink gin cocktails you have to try
The most famous pink gin cocktail is pink gin and tonic. The drink was first introduced in Esquire magazine, around 1942 by David A. Embury who also wrote that pink gin should be made with London dry or Plymouth gins rather than Old Tom, Dutch Genever or other styles of gin.
Other popular pink gin cocktails are pink lemonade gin and tonic, pink strawberry gin sour with a pink sugar rim or pink grapefruit gin fizz.
Alternatively, if you find a high quality pink gin (like Rose Finch gin) you can drink pink gin neat, with ice, on the rocks or mixed in pink gin cocktails.
My personal favourite is the Strawberry and Basil Pink gin sour and this is how you make it :
To make the syrup
- Combine 100g sugar and 120ml water in a large jar and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
- Add 200g strawberries and 10/12 basil leaves to the jar and screw on the lid. Give the jar a gentle shake and place in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or up to 2 days.
- Strain the syrup through a fine mesh strainer. Store the syrup in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- If you want to, add 30ml gin to help the syrup keep a bit longer.
For the cocktail:
- Combine 60ml Rose Finch Gin, 30ml lemon juice, 30ml strawberry basil syrup, and egg white in a cocktail shaker.
- Shake the cocktail without ice for 15-30 seconds to build the foam.
- Fill the shaker 3/4 with ice and shake until chilled, about 12 seconds.
- Strain the cocktail into a coupe glass and garnish with half a strawberry and a basil leaf.
So there we have it. Pink gin is becoming more popular and there are a huge number of options out on the market. It's a great option for people who want something different from regular gin because pink gins are less harsh than traditional London dry style. Whatever your opinion, make sure that you take Rose Finch's advice... make your own free choice and don't be swayed by others opinions until you have tried it for yourself!