For some gin fans, pink gin is a serious alternative to regular gin. Others just love the eye-catching bottles and mixing up a delicate rose-coloured Gin & Tonic in summer. Then there are the gin purists who think pink gin is a step too far away from classic styles.
So who’s right and just what is pink gin anyway?
What is pink gin?
Originally the term Pink Gin referred to a cocktail: a simple mix of Plymouth Gin and Angostura Bitters. Its creation is commonly attributed to Henry Workshop, a ship’s surgeon in the British Royal Navy, serving on board HMS Hercules. The ship was in the Caribbean in 1826, patrolling the waves for slave trade vessels, when Workshop first discovered Angostura Bitters.
The bitters had been invented by a German doctor, Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, in 1824. Working in a military hospital in the town of Angostura in Venezuela, he created his bitters as a medicinal treatment to help patients with upset stomachs and indigestion. Word of this marvellous tonic soon spread – Angostura sits on the Orinoco River, which flows into the Caribbean basin – and sailors started using it to treat seasickness.
Workshop came up with the idea of combining a few drops of Angostura Bitters with the naval ration of Plymouth Gin. The dark red bitters gave the resulting concoction a pink hue – and Pink Gin was born. It had become a popular drink throughout England by the mid-19th century. If you want to make one at home, put 5-6 dashes of Angostura Bitters and 60ml of gin in a mixing glass with ice and stir well to chill and slightly dilute the gin. Strain into a chilled Martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
How does pink gin taste?
Today the term pink gin is used to describe gins that are infused with a range of botanicals – from rose and rhubarb, to strawberries, raspberries and red currants – to give a distinct flavour and a rosy hue.
Production methods and botanicals vary, so when it comes to flavour, you might get a very citrussy pink gin, made with pink grapefruit, a delicate floral one made with roses or a fruity one made with berries. The choice is yours…
Arguably the best pink gins are the ones that retain a dry, juniper character alongside the added pink botanical flavours. So you get that familiar gin hit when you pair them with tonic or use them in cocktails. Some producers also prefer to stick to the classic recipe of mixing gin with bitters.
But there’s also plenty to be said for mixing a gently fruity G&T, garnished with fresh berries, on a sunny afternoon or for Valentine’s Day. Take your pick of both styles from our recommendations below…
Best pink gins to try
Amalthea Pink Gin
This distinctive gin is distilled in small batches at Fortnum & Mason’s famous department store on London’s Piccadilly. Amalthea is the name of the copper still in the third-floor distillery. Made from a base of apple spirit, botanicals include rhubarb, rose petals, grapefruit peel, cardamom seeds, hibiscus flowers and Fortnum’s Earl Grey Classic Tea. I love the aromas here: pretty rhubarb and rose tones, with a sprinkle of white pepper. On the palate exotic notes of cardamom spice balance Turkish Delight sweetness. A classic London Dry style, with a very spicy finish, plus crisp citrus – packs quite a punch! Try it in a Negroni. Alcohol 43%
Chapel Down Pinot Noir Gin
The perfect pink gin for wine lovers, this is distilled by English wine producer Chapel Down, which also makes a Chardonnay vodka. Made from distilled Pinot Noir grape skins and English wheat spirit, it’s infused with botanicals including coriander and rosehip. The pale pink hue comes from dried raspberries and strawberries. You’ll taste those berries on the deliciously creamy palate, along with clean citrus and plenty of juniper. Try it in a Tenterden Blush sparkling cocktail: 50ml of gin mixed with 50ml lemonade and topped with 25ml of Chapel Down Brut. Alc 41.2%
Chase Pink Grapefruit and Pomelo
Best known for its potato vodka and ‘field to bottle’ approach, Herefordshire farmers-turned-distillers Chase also make this zesty pink gin, which is distilled with pink grapefruit and pomelo peels. Packed with bold citrus aromas and flavours, it’s a zinger of a gin that delivers a sharp hit of grapefruit guaranteed to wake up your tastebuds. Pair with Fentimans Connoisseurs Tonic Water and garnish with a slice of pink grapefruit. Alc 40%
Elsker Dry Pink Gin
‘Elsker’ is the Norwegian word for ‘love’, so this bottle is an ideal choice for Valentine’s Day… It’s made by Stig Bareksten at the Oss Craft Distillery in Norway, whose drinks are inspired by the untamed Norwegian landscape. His pink gin includes wild raspberries and blueberries to create a rosy hue. There’s super balance here, with a natural tartness and sweetness from the fruit on the creamy palate. Notes of raspberry, rhubarb and cherry combine with juniper bite and dry spice for a fresh finish. Try it in a G&T. Alc 40%
Foxdenton Pink Gin
Family-run Foxdenton began making fruit gins before it produced its first London Dry, Foxdenton 48, which as the name suggests is bottled at a punchy 48% abv, with botanicals including lime flower, angelica and orris root. Its pink gin blends Foxdenton 48 with Angostura Bitters, raspberries and cranberries for a super-fruity palate – think juicy red cherries, raspberry and cranberry – balanced by serious spiciness. A crisp finish offers the proper piney juniper freshness you need from a London Dry, which makes this a great choice for a G&T. The flamingo label looks eye-catching on your drinks shelf too. Alc 40%
Henley Gin, Rhubarb & Orange
A newcomer to the UK’s distilling scene, Henley Distillery took up residence in a restored threshing barn just outside Henley-on-Thames in 2021. Head distiller is Jacob Wilson, one of the youngest Master Distillers in the country, who produces a range of three small-batch Henley Gins: Classic Dry, Oriental Spiced and this pink Rhubarb & Orange. Pale onion-skin in colour, it has been layered with fresh orange zest and tart rhubarb to create a zesty, fruity, fresh and elegant gin. Notes of rhubarb and orange (as you’d expect) are joined by aromas of raspberry, fresh blackcurrant and Parma violet that carry through to the palate, where they join with a satisfying juniper hit and spice notes. An assured debut. Alc 42%
Hernö Pink BTL Gin
OK, so this Swedish gin isn’t pink – it’s clear-coloured – but it’s too good to leave out of this list. As the label explains: ‘This is not a cocktail. Pink Gin is a cocktail. This is a pink bottle of gin.’ The organic botanicals include rose petals, strawberries, black pepper, coriander seeds, cassia bark, vanilla and lemon peel. Elegant aromas: juniper freshness dominates with gentle wafts of red fruit and rose on top. The rich palate has balancing citrus and black pepper zestiness. Floral notes linger on the dry finish, with red berries and peppery spice. Try it in a Pink 75: pour 30ml gin, 15ml lemon juice and 15ml raspberry syrup into a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a Champagne flute, then top with Champagne. Alc 42%
Kyrö Pink Gin
Finland’s Kyrö distillery makes this distinctive coppery onion-skin coloured gin, using a base of rye spirit. That rye gives an interesting savoury, grainy note to the aromas and adds real depth and a creamy silkiness to the palate. Infused with fresh red berries, rhubarb and foraged Finnish lingonberries, there are also the red fruit notes you’d expect from a pink gin, alongside herbs, spices and vanilla hints. Savour it in a Martini. Alc 38.2%
Mermaid Pink Gin
Queen Victoria liked to spend summers on the Isle of Wight and this eye-catching gin from the island’s distillery captures the spirit of a sunny seaside holiday. The signature Mermaid Gin is made with 10 ethically sourced botanicals including rock samphire, known locally as mermaid’s kiss. To make Mermaid Pink the team steep fresh island strawberries in gin for four days, then redistill. The result is a gin that’s laced with fresh strawberry notes, along with a salty ozone freshness – like eating strawberries and cream on the beach. Makes a fruity, fresh and creamy G&T. Alc 42%
Mirabeau Rosé Gin
The team behind Mirabeau rosé wines make this elegant pink gin that’s inspired by, and infused with, the grapes and botanicals growing wild on their Provence estate. A base of grape spirit extracted from Mirabeau’s Forever Summer wine is combined with 12 botanicals including juniper, coriander seed, lemon peel, lavender, jasmine, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, iris root and angelica. They give an enveloping and fragrant florality on the nose, while the palate is lifted by citrus freshness and given an earthy touch by generous herbaceousness. There’s also an underlying soft sweetness from the addition of Mirabeau’s Provence rosé to the distillation. Refreshing and enjoyable to sip on its own, although a lemon peel garnish combined with a bitter tonic, or grapefruit juice, works well to amplify the herbal and floral characters while accenting the sweetness. Alc 43%
Salcombe Gin Rosé Sainte Marie
Devon’s Salcombe Distilling Co makes a range of excellent gins – including alcohol-free options – and its pink offering is no exception. Inspired by the South of France (Sainte Marie is a lighthouse in the old port of Marseille) it’s pale Provençal rosé pink in colour, with a floral, herbaceous nose: thyme and orange blossom hints plus red berry fruit. The silky and sophisticated palate has appealing notes of rose, plus a decent hit of juniper and a fresh herbaceous finish. Pair with Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic for a summery, floral Gin & Tonic. Alc 41.4%
Silent Pool English Rose Gin
One for fans of floral gins, this heady gin reminds me of walking through a rose garden, but avoids being cloying thanks to its freshness and bone dry palate. As the name suggests, Surrey distillers Silent Pool infuse their gin with English rose petals, which creates really pretty aromatics of freshly picked roses, with a hint of violet too. The elegant palate flourishes with notes of rosewater and Turkish delight, followed by a crisp citrus finish. Simply one of the best rose gins out there. Mix it with Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic for a full-on flower-power G&T. Alc 42%
That Boutique-y Gin Company Proper Pink Gin
The clever chaps at That Boutique-y have put their own spin on pink gin, with this Proper version that blows a raspberry to, well, raspberries. Starting from the original Pink Gin cocktail recipe of gin plus Angostura Bitters, they first vacuum-distilled the Angostura to remove the colour and bitterness – but not the flavour – the re-bittered with a gentian tincture and added lemon distillate, finishing with a dash of Angostura Bitters added at the end. The result is a very elegant gin that’s fresh, grassy and citrussy (lemon and pink grapefruit), with liquorice and black pepper spice, plus chalky mineral streak. Really clean and crisp, it’s fabulous for a Martini – or try the recommended long serve with tonic and an orange twist. Alc 46%
The Bitter Truth Pink Gin
German company The Bitter Truth produces an excellent range of bitters for use in cocktails (Cherry and Olive are two of my particular favourites). So it’s no surprise that their pink gin sticks to the classic formula of gin + bitters. There’s even a sailing ship on the label to emphasise the naval origins. It’s made by blending the company’s own Aromatic Bitters with a London Dry gin, resulting in a fragrant spirit with aromas of Mediterranean herbs, oranges, lemons and of course, juniper freshness. There’s a herbal character on the creamy palate too, plus notes of spicy dried orange peel, fennel and caraway seeds. It’s equally good for a G&T or any Martini-style cocktails. Alc 40%
Vitoria Regia Organic Rose Gin
One for the gin adventurers: the Vitória Régia range of small-batch organic gins is made in Brazil and takes its name from the giant Amazonian lily pads discovered by Victorian explorers in 1801 and named in honour of the young Queen Victoria. Produced sustainably and drawing on Brazil’s abundant wealth of native botanicals, the range includes four expressions: Dry, Citrus, Tropical – and this Orgânico Rosé pink gin. Botanicals include hibiscus, blueberry and cranberry, alongside coriander, cardamom, allspice, lime peel and (of course) juniper. The result is a tropical pink gin with fruity ripe red berries and blueberry aromas alongside drier hibiscus notes and floral hints that persist on the palate, joining with plenty of spice on the crisp finish. Alc 42%