Pink gin, it’s normal gin’s way-more-fun cousin, right? Flavoured with everything from raspberry to cherry blossom, pink grapefruit to rhubarb – and with a blushing pink hue to match – this trendy spirit has, in under a decade, gone from drinks trolley oddity to G&T staple, especially in summertime.
Pink gins aren’t loved by everyone though. Gin purists in particular often turn up their noses, citing sickly sweetness, one-dimensional character or a lack of juniper flavour.
Now, with hundreds of pink gins now on the market, lazy generalisations no longer apply. Sure, some pink gins seem made only for Instagram, with neon hues and outrageous branding. But award-winning distilleries have been entering the game too, turning out dry craft spirits in elegant pale hues, fragranced with intriguing botanicals and quality fresh fruit.
If we’re getting technical, many of the spirits labelled as “pink gin” are probably vodkas or liqueurs, because they lack the strong juniper character that makes gin, well, gin.
If you like your drinks on the sweeter side, that might not bother you. But if you’re craving something dry with just a gentle fruity hit, then generally look for pink gins that describe themselves as being distilled with their fruit and floral botanicals, rather than steeped. And, it should go without saying, avoid anything with added sugar.
When choosing our favourites, listed below, our own rules were simple: as well as being pink in colour, each gin had to have both a distinct juniper note and a noticeable “pink” flavour – whether from berries, pink grapefruit or even rose petals.
Every single gin was tasted “blind”, without labels and in opaque cups, to ensure they genuinely tasted as pink as they looked.
Finally, remember that any gin, pink or otherwise, is only as good as its serve. Most pink gins are enhanced by the right tonic, as it balances their sweetness and draws out the fruit flavours – check the distiller’s recommendation for what suits best. Some of those listed below are even elegant enough to sip neat, or on the rocks, poured over a single giant ice cube.
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Manchester Gin raspberry infused, 50cl
This is, quite simply, a pink gin as anyone would want it. Well made, and with a discernible pop of fruit from British raspberries, it’s delicious and easy to drink – and yet still dry, balanced and with a distinct juniper character. It’s properly pink, yet still properly gin.
The great taste is probably down to the fact that the distillers don’t mess around, preferring to keep things simple. Owners Seb and Jen take their award-winning signature gin recipe, then infuse it with fresh raspberries before and after distillation to pump up the flavour. Raspberry has been named as one of the most natural fruit matches for juniper – after all, that’s the combination found in Pinkster, the spirit that started the pink gin craze – and this gin only reaffirms the affinity.
Kyrö pink gin, 50cl
Think pink gin isn’t proper gin? Wait until you try this. Even card-carrying gin geeks will love Kyrö. First, there’s the colour: it’s more copper than Barbie’s Dream House, particularly as it ages in bottle. Second, the aroma is distinctly savoury. This is a rye gin infused with rhubarb and berries, and its nose is light-years away from being sickly or overly fruity. Finally, its palate is impressive: rich, herbal and round, with a finish that goes on for yonks.
You can pick out notes of liquorice and lingonberry (it’s Finnish, after all), but the overwhelming sensation while drinking this is that someone is filling your mouth with liquid silk. Basically, it tastes expensive; more so than it is. Is it the archetype of pink gin, with rosy hue and berry-forward sweetness? No. Is it our favourite? Yes.
Haysmith’s raspberry and redcurrant pink gin, 70cl
Hats off to Aldi: its own-brand pink gin really is a brilliant-value pour, coming in at around half the price of most other bottles. A juicy fruit nose – with plenty of the raspberry and redcurrant that is promised on the label – gives way to a simple, refreshing and distinctly pink flavour profile.
It’s not hugely complicated, and flavours drop off after a few seconds, including the notable kick of citrus and juniper that keeps it tasting fresh (and like a gin). But serve this at a summer garden party in giant fishbowl glasses, with plenty of ice and tonic, and you won’t find anyone complaining.
Chase pink grapefruit and pomelo, 70cl
Popping the lid off this one is like cutting into a fresh grapefruit: citrussy aromas hit the air with such intensity you wonder if British spirit producer Chase has bottled an entire citrus grove. And guess what? It tastes like it, too.
This gently pink gin, distilled with pink grapefruit peels and other citrus fruits, including pomelo, is the very definition of zingy. With oodles of character, this spirit is tart, bold, grown up and unafraid to commit to a distinct flavour profile. Grapefruit smacks you (deliciously) round the face. By the same token, if you don’t like grapefruit, don’t go here: there’s little point. The characteristic zip of the citrus is inescapable, and while it has the ability to evoke the feeling of summer breakfasts, it’s not for everyone.
Salcombe Gin rosé sainte marie, 70cl
The pale pink hue alone is enticing enough – a sophisticated shade that has more in common with an austere Provençal rosé wine than the average pink gin. Just swirling it in our glasses transported us to the sun-drenched Côte d’Azur. But this south of France-inspired bottling from Devon distiller Salcombe (named after a lighthouse in the old port of Marseille) has more than just good looks.
The complex, multi-layered character – whiffs of stone fruit and orange blossom mixed with herbaceous, savoury notes of mint and thyme – continue to unfold in your glass many minutes after pouring. This is a pink gin that forces you to take it seriously; no wonder it’s picked up so many awards. Sip over a game of boules in the garden and feel Bardot-fabulous.
Clean Co clean gin rhubarb, 70cl
OK, so we’re cheating a bit with this one. At just 1.2 per cent alcohol, this isn’t technically a pink gin – rather a low-alcohol drink. But CleanCo’s rhubarb london dry “gin” is so tasty we had to take notice.
The juniper note is mild, but there – while a tart rhubarb hit makes it fruity without veering into sickly (all too easy when you don’t have that balancing bite of alcohol). The body is surprisingly gin-like, with a real weighty mouthfeel. And yet it’s only 15 calories per serve, which feels kind of like witchcraft.
We like this best over the rocks, where you can appreciate the “gin” character undiluted, though it can also hold its ground with a small splash of quality tonic.
Bullards strawberry and black pepper gin, 70cl
A lot of pink gins are generically fruity: pleasant enough, but a bit hard to pin-point specific aromas or characteristics. Not this one. Distilled by Bullards in Norfolk, one sniff makes you feel like you’ve been dropped in the middle of a strawberry farm at the height of summer.
Around 100 kilos of strawberries go into each distillation, so it’s little wonder that fresh berry aromas unfurl from the glass with such unashamed punchiness. But what takes this pink gin to the next level is that the fruitiness is followed by the warmth of black pepper, and a hint of baking spice. The result is a gin that is much more interesting, and altogether more balanced.
Eco-warriors take note: Bullards operates a refill scheme too, which lets you buy a single “bottle for life” and top up with recyclable pouches from the distillery.
Gin 1689 The Queen Mary edition, 70cl
This gin is interesting to drink. Infused with quince, citrus, strawberries and raspberries, the resulting aromas are bold, and far from run-of-the-mill. A riot of spice, baked banana, tropical fruit salad and cherry lozenge pour confidently from the glass. With the equally generous fruity palate, it’s almost hard to believe that this spirit is 100 per cent sugar free. It doesn’t feel nearly as dry and austere as some other pink gins on this list. One for gin lovers who love to experiment with new flavours.
Longtooth Gin rose petal and strawberry, 70cl
A brand new release from award-winning boutique brand Longtooth Gin – this gin is a bit hard to place at first. The exotic rose, mustard seed and cinnamon notes are a bit disorienting for a gin. But then you take another sip, and it’s darn delicious.
The gin’s punchy alcohol content demands a good slug of tonic to bring out its lovely floral and fruity notes, but get the balance right and you could even pair this G&T with food (especially a curry, thanks to those botanicals). Buying a bottle does good, too: 10 per cent of profits go direct to the WWF to support endangered species.
Chapel Down pinot noir gin, 70cl
When it comes to smooth sipping, Chapel Down nails it. The English winemaker might be best-known for its fizz, but its vodka and gins – all made using fresh wine grapes or skins – are just as elegant and worthy of attention.
This pale pink spirit is made with a mix of distilled pinot noir grapes from Chapel Down’s own harvest and English wheat spirit, and has what drink geeks might call “gorgeous mouthfeel” – a long, light and delicate palate. In short, it’s just really nice to drink, with a generous red fruity, floral character that is present without being overpowering.
Mirabeau rosé gin, 70cl
Mirabeau’s enticingly pale pink Provençal rosé wines have legions of fans. But its gin is a real streak of genius, too. Infused with local scrubland (garrigue) botanicals, including lavender, thyme and Menton lemon, it also contains a very special ingredient: a wee splash of their own popular wine. Besides adding a gentle fruitiness, this lends the gin a blushing, sophisticated hue.
Of all the spirits here, this one is, perhaps, nicest to drink neat. It also has a strong sense of place; one sip and you’re whisked away to French lavender fields, baking under the Riviera sunshine. Basically, this is a gin that’s been made like a wine, by winemakers. And yet, this is a serious gin for gin drinkers – extremely dry, and with a floral perfume that is pretty without being overbearing.
Zymurgorium flagingo pink gin, 50cl
Is it sophisticated, elegant, grown up? Absolutely not. Does it care? Not in the slightest. This gin oozes fun. If the accordion-style box printed with pineapples and inflatable floatation rings don’t give it away, the “tasting notes” (more about flamingos than anything else) and vibrant pink hue will. This is a sweet, pool party-ready gin.
But you know what? It’s dangerously drinkable. On the nose strawberry laces, cotton candy and fruit cordial prevail, and the palate packs the same flavourful punch with added tropical tones. Gin snobs will turn up their noses, but Flagingo doesn’t care. It knows what it is and isn’t trying to be anything else – and we respect that. Also, it’s less than £15.
Silent Pool Distillers english rose gin, 50cl
Hello, roses! If floral is your bag, you’ll dig this small batch, petal-powered pour from Surrey distillers Silent Pool. Infused with English rose petals to produce a natural pink hue and distinct Chelsea Flower Show aromas, it sits on the prettier side of pink gin, while still being dry.
Rose is unquestionably the dominant character, but whiffs of citrus and Parma Violet mingle in the glass too. Basically, this smells like a warm mid-summer evening in the garden. If you want to tone down the floral character, pair with a classic tonic. Otherwise, go all-in with an elderflower tonic; it’s like you’re drinking a fresh bouquet.
The verdict: Pink gins
With such breadth of style and flavour, it really is hard to pick a single pink gin as a winner – the one you prefer will ultimately depend on the flavours you like best. But, if we had to pick just one that expertly encapsulates the spirit of pink gin – a bottle that everyone will love, wherever they sit on the gin snob spectrum – it has to be Manchester Gin raspberry infused. Equal parts fruity and juniper-y, it’s everything that a pink gin should be.
Speaking of sunnier days, we’d be amiss if we didn’t divert your attention to our round up of the best canned wines to pack in your picnic basket
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