Pink Gin

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Pink Gin
Type Cocktail
Primary alcohol by volume
Served Straight up; without ice
Standard garnish


Standard drinkware
Cocktail Glass (Martini).svg
Cocktail glass
Commonly used ingredients
Preparation Chill the glass, then coat the inside with the Bitters. Add the gin very well chilled, garnish and serve.
Notes The traditional garnish is a shave of lemon rind. You can obtain this by removing about an inch strip of lemon rind with a potato peeler.

Pink Gin is a cocktail made fashionable in England in the mid-19th century, consisting of Plymouth gin[1] and a dash of 'pink' Angostura bitters, a dark red extract of gentian and spices, known from the 1820s at Angostura, Venezuela but now made in Trinidad and Tobago. Lemon rind is also commonly used as a garnish, with the citrus oils subtly complementing the flavour.


Pink gin is a typically English way of enjoying gin. It is widely agreed that the drink was first created by members of the Royal Navy. Plymouth gin is a 'sweet' gin, as opposed to London gin which is 'dry', and was added to Angostura bitters to make the consumption of Angostura bitters more enjoyable.[2]

Angostura bitters were used as a treatment for sea sickness in 1824 by Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert (though they were used for other medicinal purposes long before this),[3] who subsequently formed the House of Angostura, a company selling the bitters to sailors.

The British Royal Navy then brought the idea for the drink to bars in England,[4] where this method of serving was first noted on the mainland. By the 1870s, gin was becoming increasingly popular and many of the finer establishments in England were serving Pink Gin.[5]


A typical pink gin is one part gin and one dash of angostura bitters.

Though there are no major variations of pink gin, many bartenders vary the amount of angostura bitters used. Occasionally the drink is topped up with iced water.

A bartender may ask the customer whether he wants it "in or out", upon which the bartender swirls the angostura bitters around the glass before either leaving it in, or pouring it out (leaving only a residue), and then adding the gin.

It is also common for pink gin to be served as 'pink gin and tonic', typically consisting of 4 dashes of angostura bitters and 2 shots of gin, which is then topped up with tonic water. This is served in a highball glass over ice, and then can be garnished with lemon.[6]

Cedric Charles Dickens (great-grandson of Charles Dickens) records in Drinking With Dickens that a 'Burnt Pink Gin' consists of 1 tsp Angostura burnt by heating over a flame and then poured into "a large tot dry gin.".[7]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the 1951 film Encore, several of the characters order a pink gin.
  • In the 1953 film adaptation of Nicholas Monsarrat's book, The Cruel Sea, Lockhart (Donald Sinden) meets Ericson (Jack Hawkins) at a London hotel where they both drink pink gin. In a somewhat rewritten scene in the BBC Radio 4 Extra adaptation of 2013, the pair drink gin and tonic.
  • A horse named after the cocktail competed in the 1997 Grand National steeplechase finishing fourteenth.
  • Pink gin was drunk by Hattie (Jean Simmons) in The Grass Is Greener (1960). She liked her bitters to be burnt with a match prior to adding the gin.
  • Lottie Cassell offers a pink gin to Logan Mountstuart in Episode 1 of the Channel 4 TV series Any Human Heart. 2010 (UK), 2011 (US).
  • Bigelow (Alec Guinness) orders "Two pink gins, full measure and don't skimp on the Angostura" in the movie Raise the Titanic.
  • Pink gin is a popular drink in Graham Greene's The Heart of the Matter.
  • In Series 5 Episode 1 of Minder[8] Arthur Daley's companions order pink gins in the naval club. Arthur then orders a "pink vodka"
  • In the James Bond novel The Man With the Golden Gun, Bond orders a pink gin with Beefeater and "plenty of bitters" in the bar of the Thunderbird Hotel in Jamaica, which is operated by his nemesis Francisco Scaramanga.
  • In Agatha Christie's Poirot, episode Triangle at Rhodes, some of the characters drink pink gin, one such cocktail being used as the delivery method of a deadly poison.
  • Mentioned in the song "Alcohol" by the Kinks off the 1971 album "Muswell Hillbillies"
  • Pink gin is the drink of choice of Jerry Westerby in the John LeCarre novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
  • The drink is repeatedly ordered in Patrick Hamilton's novel The Slaves of Solitude.[9]
  • In the Nevil Shute novel, On the Beach, several of the main characters drink pink gin.
  • In Pete Dexter's novel Deadwood, pink gin is the favorite and constant drink of Wild Bill Hickok.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Gin cocktail recipes II". Retrieved 2010-06-14. 
  2. ^ "Great Cocktails: Pink Gin". Retrieved 2007-04-29. 
  3. ^ "Angostura Bitters". Retrieved 2007-04-29. 
  4. ^ "Bitters in the bar". Retrieved 2007-04-29. 
  5. ^ "The History of Gin". The BBC. Retrieved 2007-04-29. 
  6. ^ "Pink Gin and Tonic". In The Spirit. Retrieved 2007-04-29. 
  7. ^ Drinking With Dickens. Elvendon Press. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Hamilton, Patrick. “The Slaves of Solitude.” New York Review of Books. 2007. Print. pg. 89