James Bond 007 ordered his first Martini in Goldfinger written in 1964, but the following year he ordered a Pink Gin in ‘The Man with the Golden Gun.’ This type of pink gin was with Angostura bitters and not using the brands we now find on the supermarket shelves.
Pink gin has been a phenomenon over the last three years with everyone trying to get into the market. It started back in 2013 with Pinkster and by 2020 it was a market for all! Gin Foundry summed it up “It was as though Mr Blobby himself had exploded across the Gin hemisphere, filling bottle after bottle with weird, sweet, not-quite-gin flavours and bright, bold, dusky pink colours”.
The Wine and Spirits Trade Association reported that Flavoured Gin had driven half of all growth in Gin sales in the UK in 2018, coming from nowhere to represent one fifth of total Gin sales at the beginning of 2019. That number has increased in the year that has passed with many experts saying that flavoured gin is now one third of the category in the UK.
By 2020 there were over 200 pink gins in the UK market. Gordon’s Pink Gin sells well over 15 million bottles a year now and is growing at a considerably faster rate than its flagship dry.
Gin Foundry estimate that at least half of all British brands have now put out a Fruit Infused Gin at this stage, no matter how seriously they would all like to be perceived as category-protecting artisans. They also wager that many of those infused Gins will be pink in colour and have a good dose of sugar to sweeten them. So how are these pink gins made?
The techniques used within the industry fall into three categories. To be pink distillers must add some form of colouring, as not many pink things come out of a still!
Natural Flavouring & Colouring:
Many brands use natural flavour essences. This allows them to ensure the flavour is identical between batches, with no variance or seasonality. There are often teams of scientists working with these companies who combine multiple natural or artificial compounds to create the intended flavour. However, these flavours do not add colour, and these must be added providing the bright vivid hues that we often see on the supermarket shelves.
Addition of a Second Non-Gin Liquid:
This is the least travelled route, as it requires a partnership with someone who can provide either wine or juice of some type. The second non gin liquid is added to the gin post distillation.
Warner’s adds Rhubarb juice (34%) to every bottle providing an authentic flavour and colour. In 2017 they sold over 350,000 bottles of Rhubarb Gin. Whilst Mirabeau Rose Gin has Rose Wine added to it sourced from their own distillery.
Post Distillation Maceration:
This is the most common way distillers create their products, using natural and fresh ingredients. Maceration is where the fruit sits within the gin post distillation. The alcohol extracts both the colour and flavour of the fruits. This method also means that the gin could have sediment or organic material within it if it is not filtered prior to bottling.
What about the sugar content?
Sugar is used to provide the sweetness for some of these pink gins. Warner’s Rhubarb Gin has 64g of sugar in a bottle whilst Beefeater have 32g in a bottle. For those who like London Dry gins you will be glad to know they are not allowed to be artificially sweetened.
Is Pink Gin a Gin?
This is a good question. Gin must have juniper within it and be over 37.5% ABV with minimal amounts of sugar. Pinkster uses piles of raspberries within their London gin whilst Warner’s Rhubarb uses their Harrington Dry gin as their base. Starting with a quality gin is the first step to creating a high-quality pink gin.
At present there seem to be few rules governing pink gin, the market is wide open but is it a fad that becomes the downfall for the larger category? Time will show us.