Pink Gin Two Ways
And now a word (or two) from Eric Miller!
Pink Gin Two Ways
Diana Vreeland once said that “hot pink is the navy blue of India.” That may be fine for the world of high fashion. When it comes to drinking, though, I would change it to say that “pink is hot in the Navy, especially in India”
Pink Gin is the quintessential British drink. You might have thought the G&T, or Pimm’s Cup or even a pint of good, English ale might hold this honor, but nothing says Britain—and the Empire—like Pink Gin. Not for nothing was the British Empire always colored pink on maps of the world. And the Financial Times’ chosen color of paper? Hunting jackets? Jermyn Street shirtmakers? I rest my case…… This iconic drink is not only the favored British tipple in real life; British authors have long had their characters quaffing Pink Gin, from Agatha Christie (Triangle at Rhodes) and John Le Carre (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) to Graham Greene (Heart of the Matter) and Ian Fleming. In fact, in The Man with the Golden Gun, James Bond orders a Pink Gin with Beefeater and “plenty of bitters” in a bar at the Thunderbird Hotel in Jamaica. A horse named “Pink Gin” even ran in the 1997 Grand National Steeplechase finishing fourteenth.
So what is this most British of drinks? Quite simply, it is gin and a dash of Angostura bitters. It is widely agreed that the drink was first created by members of the Royal Navy. Plymouth gin, which is a ‘sweet’ gin, as opposed to London gin which is ‘dry’, was added to Angostura bitters to make the consumption of Angostura bitters more enjoyable.
Angostura bitters were discovered as a cure for sea sickness in 1824 by Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, who subsequently formed the Angostura Company, selling his bitters to sailors. Angostura, by the way, tempers the acidity of citrus ingredients for individuals who are acid sensitive and explains why Angostura aromatic bitters can settle the stomach (or, in Coca Cola, help cure a hangover!).
To make a Pink Gin, you pour a measure of gin into a glass and add a dash of bitters—some like more, some like less—which gives the drink its beautiful orangey pink color. Ice can be added (this is Britain, remember, so don’t get your hopes up) and the whole thing can be topped up with iced water, which is just the thing in Ceylon or Burma.
Taking the Pink Gin to a new level, my version is basically a Martini made with pink vermouth. I recently discovered that Martini & Rossi makes a slightly sweet, pink vermouth to complement its dry vermouth, its Martini Bianco (a sweet white vermouth that is excellent on the rocks) and its red vermouth, that essential ingredient for Negronis and Manhattans. Called Martini Rosato, this pink vermouth may be hard to find but is well worth it. Slightly spicy, this vermouth has hints of fruit and is only slightly sweet. It is very good on its own, on the rocks or topped up with soda. For my Pink Gin, Martini-style, I use more vermouth than I normally might, to give it extra flavor. Because of this, it calls for icy-cold dry gin (I always use Gordon’s).
While the sun may never have set on the British Empire, let’s hope there is a sunset in your near future and as it approaches, why not try Pink Gin? Either way—old school or Martini-style—it is refreshing, unusual (these days) and delicious.