Pink Gin is also known as Gin & Bitters and it is, quite simply, those two ingredients: gin and bitters. This classic cocktail was originally created by the Royal Navy to make Angostura bitters - which they used as a medicinal treatment for their sailors - more palatable (the lure of gin may have added to its appeal).
The 'pink' in the Pink Gin comes from the slight pink hue the bitters give the gin.
You may also hear the term "Gin Pahit" in many 19th-century sailing stories like those by W. Somerset Maugham. This is the virtually the same drink, only the name has been lost in time. The word "pahit" is Malay for "bitters."
Whatever you want to call it, it is a fabulous aperitif and a great way to experience your favorite gins.
- Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.
- Stir well.
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
A Traditional Way to Mix the Pink Gin
Plymouth Gin claims that there is a more traditional way to mix up a Pink Gin and it is a bit more involved than simply stirring gin with bitters. Of course, they recommend their own gin, specifically Plymouth Navy Strength Gin, and it is a very fine choice indeed.
"Navy Strength" gins are higher proof than the average gin and Plymouth's version weighs in at 57% ABV (114 proof). The point of this Pink Gin is to get the alcohol to feel "pleasant not aggressive" and Plymouth recommends tasting it prior to straining it into the glass.
It's a great strategy and proof that dilution is key to making our cocktails spectacular. We need water to cut the alcohol and make the drink pleasant, particularly with those full-flavored, overproof gins. I encourage you to try the Pink Gin made both ways so you can see the difference.
- Add 1 dash of Angostura bitters to a mixing glass filled with ice.
- Stir for 10-15 seconds.
- Swirl this bittered ice and water around in a cocktail glass.
- Dump out the water, leaving the glass with a bitters rinse.
- Back in your mixing glass, pour a "large measure" of gin (2 ounces is good) and fill it with ice.
- Stir well and strain into a cocktail glass.
- Express the oils of a lemon peel over the drink and drop the peel in if you like.
Choosing the Right Gin
Of course, you can choose any gin you like for a Pink Gin though you may enjoy this cocktail more with one of the sweeter or lighter profiled gins. Remember that there is nothing besides bitters and water added to this drink, so whichever gin you choose, it should definitely be your best.
Here are a few gins that you might want to try out:
- Plymouth Gin - A fruitier profile with a full body, Plymouth Gin is a perfect candidate for the Pink Gin.
- Hayman's Old Tom Gin - Old Tom gins bridge the gap between sweet genever and those London dry gins we love so much. Hayman's is one of the best of this small class of old-school gin.
- Tanqueray Malacca - It makes a rare appearance on the market, but this sweetened version of the famous London dry is perfect for a Pink Gin. When you see it, mix it!
- Nolet's Silver Dry Gin - Soft florals and fruits are the hallmarks of this gin and it deserves the gentle treatment of a Pink Gin.
- Right Gin - A Swedish gin that also has a sweeter flavor, you'll love the rosiness of this one in such a simple cocktail.
- Aviation Gin - One of the first 'New Western Dry Gins' to get us thinking about a softer side of gin, Aviation is readily available and ideal for drinks like this.
You can also use the Pink Gin as a sort of litmus test for trying out new gin brands. It's a little better than even the Classic Martini for exploration because it is so clean and allows the gin to shine virtually unadulterated. Use it to familiarize yourself with craft gin brands like William Elegant 48 or Bloom Gin, or to compare the contrast of Leopold's two spectacular offerings.
How Strong is the Pink Gin?
The Pink Gin will be slightly weaker than the bottling strength of the gin you pour. This is because it is diluted with water alone and your approach to mixing will play a greater role. Instead of estimating the strength of the drink, let's look at how the dilution will affect your Pink Gin.
- If you stir your Pink Gin with an 80-proof gin using our typical 1/2 ounce allowance for dilution, the drink will be about 32% ABV (64 proof).
- If you use Plymouth's suggested dilution method you might get an entire ounce of water added to the drink. In this case, an 80-proof gin would weigh in around 27% ABV (54 proof).
- If we stir according to Plymouth using their Navy Strength, we top them all at about 38% ABV (76 proof).
The strength of the Pink Gin and similar cocktails is precisely why they are served in such small proportions. Notice that neither method tops a 3-ounce drink, even with water. These are meant to be small, casual drinks to be enjoyed slowly and the intention is not to get drunk (save that train of thought for those party shots).