Whether you like it or not, a pink spirits movement is sweeping the world’s cocktail bars. Gayatri Bhaumik takes a closer look at how alcohol and the colour of a generation are being infused.
Most guys would rather get a root canal than be caught with a rose-hued drink in hand, but pink gin – indeed, pink spirits in general – seem to be having a moment and any smart gent should understand why.
This summer, a quick scroll through your Instagram feed probably revealed more than a few images of pretty young things clutching pink drinks. If you’ve been paying attention, you might have noticed that rather than the frosé that was so popular in recent years, these drinks have turned lighter, more elegant – and much less icy.
Pink spirits are popping up everywhere and Louise Ryan, managing director of The Gin Hub, Pernod Ricard’s in-house branding unit, thinks there’s a very good reason for this. “Millennial Pink has been quoted as the colour of the moment and it’s certainly a trend we’ve seen play out through fashion, design and most recently the spirits industry.”
It should come as no surprise, then, that alcohol brands all over the world are jumping on the Millennial Pink bandwagon any way they can. From Chase Rhubarb Vodka and Sweet Revenge Whiskey to Codigo 1530 Rosa Tequila and El Bandarra Rosé Vermut, it seems like every spirit and brand is blushing hard.
Leading the Pink Charge
Gin has been trending in recent years, with a surge of boutique producers creating complex, sophisticated renditions, and gin bars popping up all over the place. But now, the trend for gin seems to be moving from the clear, heavily botanical styles to colourful expressions in fifty shades of pink.
As with the general trend towards pink spirits, pink gins – at least to some extent – seem to be the result of millennial culture and its penchant for its favourite colour. “Most flavoured gins have a distinctive colour profile as well as a distinctive taste profile,” says Ryan. “This makes flavoured gin very appealing to hyper-visual millennial consumers given their ‘Instagrammable’ potential.”
Daniel Eun, owner of Hong Kong speakeasy The Wilshire, agrees that gin has undergone an inevitable Instagram-ification. “Gin as a category has been continuing to grow as the interest in craft cocktails grows, but especially with social media, cocktails are taking on more of a visual impact and it was probably only a matter of time before colours came into the picture.”
To a certain extent, this is also about the natural evolution of the gin lifecycle. With the popularity of this botanical spirit peaking, producers needed to find a new way to engage customers and colour was one way of keeping them keen. “We know that the gin industry is booming and that there’s a real appetite for new and innovative expressions that offer consumers a different and interesting drinking experience,” says Ryan. “Beefeater Pink is designed to capture the attention of today’s generation of gin drinkers who want to stand out from the crowd and enjoy something new.”
A History of Pink
Despite its now rather feminine look, pink gin has rather manly, seafaring origins. “Pink gin first came about in the 19th century in the Royal Navy,” says Amir Javaid, head bartender at John Anthony, an elegant Cantonese restaurant by Hong Kong’s Maximal Concepts that puts a strong focus on its bar. “While sailors would receive rum rations, the higher up officers would receive gin. They added bitters to it because they felt it helped cure seasickness. The bitters are what gave the gin a pink-orange hue.”
It’s this history that gave modern gin its now-trendy colour, believes Eun. “Pink gin was the traditional way of serving and consuming gin in the British Royal Navy, so it makes sense for the first colour of choice to be pink.”
A Flavourful Punch
Where gins traditionally feature botanical flavour profiles with ingredients like juniper, cardamom and coriander, the modern-day pink gins tend to be infused with fruity ingredients like rhubarb, strawberry and raspberry, all of which offer a sweeter taste and that rosy hue. And that’s partly why the trend’s gaining traction.
“Pink gin opens up a whole new category of gin. Some are infused with rhubarb, berries or even rose petals, so you can get many different flavour profiles. It does get some flack from gin enthusiasts, the same way flavoured vodkas do, but if pink gin starts people on gin who previously wouldn’t have considered it, then it’s not a bad thing…at least more people are talking about it and using it now, and showcasing how diverse gins can be,” says Javaid.
That seems to be the prevailing attitude within the drinks industry. As far as bartenders are concerned, anything that helps spread the gin gospel is fine by them. “Pink gin attracts a younger consumer due to its sweet, accessible taste profile,” adds Louise Ryan.
Like its traditional predecessor, pink gin can be had in many different ways. These fruity spirits put a sweet spin on your average gin and tonic – or even a martini (though we’re not sure James Bond would approve of that).
With pink gin gaining ground with consumers, bars are looking to stay ahead of the curve by creating fun cocktails that will appeal to everyone – even sophisticated guys who would rather stick with tried and true classics.
At John Anthony, Javaid uses a strawberry-infused pink gin to create the restaurant’s signature gin and tonic, the Strawberry and Apple. With the addition of locally-sourced honey, blackcurrant, cardamom bitters and a light tonic, the drink has a nice complexity that almost makes you forget its base. “Otherwise, a Martinez or a Tom Collins with an orange wedge would both work really nicely with a pink gin,” adds Javaid.
It looks like pink gins – and pink spirits – are here to stay, at least while millennials persist in their love of the colour and their addiction to Instagram. So men, you’ve got a choice to make: do you eye the trend with cynicism while sticking to your normal-coloured drinks and staying above the fray, or do you take an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” attitude and give in to the trend that’s sweeping bars everywhere?
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