Flavoured with ingredients like rhubarb and raspberry, pink gin is far from traditional. We taste tested this on-trend drink to see what all the fuss is about.
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Time was, when you asked for a ‘pink gin’, it meant dry gin with a splash of Angostura bitters. This was a bracing naval drink, redolent of one of Graham Greene or Patrick Hamilton’s doomed romances.
Now, to many, it means a fruity, often sweet, aromatic gin that’s designed to be drunk with plenty of tonic – more Aperol spritz in nature than neat spirit. Purists may resent the usurpation of the name but, done well, this loose grouping is a fine addition to the gin family.
Chase pink grapefruit and pomelo gin (40% ABV)
The estimable Chase, a distillery making a name for itself with both classic gins and a wide range of flavoured variations, turns its eyes towards pink gin with this punchy number.
A soft pink hue belies the massive grapefruit zest nose, which softens with fruit jellies and a touch of lime. A quick neat sip shows the spirit to be smooth and creamy and the citrus aromas to be very punchy – but this isn’t a sweet gin, per se.
Suitably expanded with tonic, ice and a pink grapefruit wedge garnish, this is summer in a glass. Chase’s ability to extract indecent amounts of fresh, zesty grapefruit and pomelo peel and put them in your glass is nothing short of impressive.
Pinkster gin (37.5% ABV)
A second career for businessman Stephen Marsh, after he found that wine and beer no longer agreed with him, Pinkster is all about the raspberries. The core spirit is produced by G&J Distillers, and Pinkster then macerates it with three more botanicals, including those raspberries.
It comes across as a more recognisably dry gin on the nose, but the juniper notes counterpoint a dominant raspberry aroma. Neat, it’s closer to a dry gin with a surprisingly light raspberry edge. A twinge of vanilla and black pepper round it out.
Once mixed with tonic, that delicate raspberry element melds well and avoids the sickliness of which pink gins are often accused. Pop it into a balloon glass with loads of ice, a few fresh mint or basil leaves and some raspberries, then top with tonic.
Terres de Mistral Provence gin (40% ABV)
Produced to order by a distillery in the south of France, this gin leans into the local aromatics, building upon the standard gin botanicals of juniper, coriander and so forth with mint, fennel, thyme, rosemary, pink grapefruit and eucalyptus.
As you might expect from that list, the nose is herbal with mint and thyme, and a clean, rosemary edge. Taken neat, it even recalls pastis, which seems appropriate for Mediterranean France, if unexpected.
When mixed with tonic, that Mediterranean note remains, with the clean fennel, rosemary and thyme dominant over the grapefruit zest in a herbal and comparatively dry gin. It's a departure from the stereotypes of pink gin – but an interesting one.
Buy from Majestic Wine (£27.90) and Laithwaite's (£30)
That Boutique-y Gin Company proper pink gin (46% ABV)
This is a gin that uses Angostura bitters – and proudly refers to itself as “proper”. In order to keep things interesting (and, one suspects, to keep it from being seen as a mere pre-mix), That Boutique-y Gin Company vacuum distills the Angostura, then blends back in gentian tincture and lemon distillate. The gin is then finished off with a splash of colour (as the initial vacuum distillation removes the Angostora's vibrant hue).
The nose is all orange and lemon, with sweet ginger, then a follow-through of juniper that’s almost oily. A neat sip hits you with a little herbal note at the beginning, followed by the interplay of the gin and Angostura aromatics with cardamom, black pepper, gentian bitterness and juniper’s clean punch, with a liquorice sweet note at the end.
Dosed with tonic, the complexities have more room to shine, and the lemon notes, in particular, come through without sacrificing the spicy finish.
Jawbox rhubarb and ginger gin liqueur (20% ABV)
Set in a 300-acre estate outside of Belfast, Jawbox is one of the brand offerings from the Echlinville Distillery, which, since its launch in 2013 has also brought out award-winning Irish whiskies, gins and poitín. This is a liqueur variant on the standard Jawbox Dry, and is the sweetest of the pink gins in this review.
While only 20% ABV, it has a huge nose with rhubarb leading in a big tangy rush and ginger following far more subtly after the boiled sweet-style richness. As you'd expect from a liqueur, it's entirely suited to drinking neat, and again leads with the rhubarb giving a mouthwatering sharpness before the sweetness comes in on a rich, mouth-coating body.
The ginger is quite restrained, adding warmth to a long finish. It works well with tonic, although a drier one is recommended to stop that sweetness becoming overwhelming. If drinking long, a small splash of soda gives the rhubarb and ginger space to shine.
Malfy gin con rosa (41% ABV)
Malfy is produced outside of Turin at the Torino Distillati, which dates back to the early 1900s, and is distilled by the Vergnano family. The Rosa is the fourth offering from the brand, joining the original, lemon and orange varieties.
The nose is a huge waft of grapefruit zest, but the Malfy distinguishes itself with a light rhubarb edge that complements the mouthwatering citrus. A neat sip shows those two again, with juniper at the end.
A splash of tonic seems to increase the aromatic quality of the gin, bringing up more of the grapefruit and rhubarb, which fade out gracefully, letting the juniper come back in lightly. A delightful mixture of the balanced and the exuberant, it's perfect for long, summer evenings.
Whitley Neill rhubarb and ginger gin (43% ABV)
This is, it seems to me, what people are really talking about when they discuss 'pink gin' – despite it being the only one of the bunch to lack the hue. Whitley Neill is one arm of Halewood International and counts J.J Whitley, City of London Distillery, Hawkshead Brewery and Crabbie's among its stablemates.
The nose is sweet rhubarb with an orange accent and a trickle of ginger and, under that, a subtle remnant of coriander and juniper. Taken neat, it drinks lightly for its strength, with a little spirit burn behind the botanicals moderated by the sweetness. The rhubarb is still at the fore, reminiscent of rhubarb and custard sweets, with the ginger again subtle.
Mixed with tonic, it makes a whole lot more sense, with the quinine balancing out that sweetshop air. You’d never mistake this for a dry gin, but then, that’s not what it's for.
Bloom jasmine & rose gin (40% ABV)
Produced by Joanne Moore, master distiller of G&J Distillers, Bloom gins are a lighter, more floral take on the spirit. This variant leads with jasmine and rose and doesn't hold back.
The jasmine and rose balance well on the nose, with the former never tipping into Turkish delight sweetness and the latter adding complexity and earthing the rose.
While it’s informative drunk neat, this isn’t the best way to enjoy it, as the botanicals are overwhelming. Once tonic is added, the elements cohere quite pleasingly. While there's more intensity than you might expect, the rose and jasmine give you just the floral lift you’d hope for. This is one that could do a lot in cocktails as well.
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This review was last updated in February 2019. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do you think of the pink gin trend? Is it a crude reworking of the traditional spirit, or a delicious new way to drink gin? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below...